The Worst Earthquakes Of 2019

Earthquakes shake us to our very core as they send buildings tumbling and start other natural disasters, like tsunamis. The most destructive earthquakes of 2019 caused damage to buildings and loss of life while some big earthquakes luckily only damaged our nerves.

The 2017 earthquakes in Mexico City compounded damage and destruction as aftershocks rolled through the already devastated city. Some earthquakes of the 21st century are among the worst in history, with many sadly claiming hundreds of thousands of lives at a time from the initial quake and resulting tsunamis. While counts are often disputed, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake are the worst two earthquakes of the 21st century, with each causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, leaving millions injured or homeless, and taking over 200,000 lives.

Even though we can prepare for earthquakes as much as possible through earthquake-proof architecture and alert systems like Los Angeles's earthquake early warning ap, ShakeAlertLA, earthquakes often occur without warning. Often caused by tectonic plate movement, earthquakes cannot be prevented and cannot always be anticipated.

These are the worst earthquakes of 2019, quakes that caused damage to property and loss of life. For other destruction caused by natural forces, see our list of The Worst Natural Disasters of 2019.

  • North Maluku, Indonesia - 7.3

    Areas Affected: The island of Halmahera, North Maluku, Indonesia

    Damages: When Halmahera, North Malaku, Indonesia was hit with a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake on July 14th, numerous areas succumbed to widespread flooding, which swept houses and commercial buildings right off their foundations. Thankfully, the quake was relatively shallow, and while it did produce a tsunami, it only amounted to a wave of just 20 cm. Despite this, numerous people were killed, and more than 50,000 were displaced. The total cost of damages to the island was relatively low given the magnitude. Ultimately, the cost was limited to 87 billion Indonesian Rupiah, which may sound like a lot of money, but it amounts to just $6 million U.S. dollars.

    Deaths: 13, 129 injured.

  • Surigao del Sur, Philippines - 5.8
    Photo: USGS

    Surigao del Sur, Philippines - 5.8

    Areas Affected: Surigao del Sur, Philippines

    Damages: The earthquake, which struck the municipality of Madrid on July 12th didn't result in any deaths, but numerous people were injured, and several buildings suffered incredible damage. In the nearby municipality of Cantilan, a restaurant tipped over while Madrid's buildings siffered widespread damge. The cost of damages in the town of Carrascal was estimated at approximately ₱7 million, which is equavelent to $137,564. Overall, the damage was relatively minor, but like any quake of this size, it caused widespread panic and resulted in dozens of injuries.

    Deaths: None, 63 injured.

  • Khuzestan, Iran - 5.7
    Photo: USGS

    Khuzestan, Iran - 5.7

    Areas Affected: Khuzestan region of Iran

    Damages: The nation of Iran suffered a serious earthquake in the Khuzestan region, 28 km southeast of Masjed Soleyman. The quake, which struck on July 8th, caused widespread damage to buildings, which included cracks along the walls and fallen roofs. There were eight homes, which suffered damaged relavent to approximately 50% of the total structure. Fortunately, nobody was directly killed by the quake, but one person died of a heart attack when the quake struck. There were an additional 100 people injured, but none of the injuries were life-threatening or overly significant. 

    Deaths: 1, 100 injured.

  • Ridgecrest Earthquakes, California - 6.4 and 7.1

    Areas affected: Ridgecrest/Searles Valley

    Damages: A series of earthquakes rattled the Searles Valley and Death Valley National Park areas on July 4, with a series of additional earthquakes following it. The series of shocks and hundreds of aftershocks could be felt over a wide area. The July 4 quake lasted 30 seconds, according to those closest to the epicenter, and the 6.4 event was felt throughout Southern California and as far as Reno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tijuana. The town of Ridgecrest, population 29,000, was closest to the epicenter; the governor declared a state of emergency there because it was one of the hardest areas hit. Nearly 7,000 customers lost power near the epicenter and a wide crack appeared in Highway 178 near Searles Valley.

    On the evening of July 5, a larger earthquake occurred in the Ridgecrest area, revealing the quake the day before to be a foreshock. An additional 5 people were injured. At 7.1 this earthquake was the region's largest in 20 years. Significant property damage was reported in Ridgecrest and the nearby town of Trona as a result of the two events.

    Deaths: None, 25 reported injuries

  • Yamagata, Japan - 6.4

    Areas Affected: Akita, Niigata, and Yamagata prefectures of Yamagata, Japan

    Damages: Japan felt the rumble of a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on June 18th, just off the coast of the Hokuriku region outside the city of Tsuroka, Yamagata. The quake struck just off the coast, which resulted in a tsunami warning. Fortunately, the resulting wave only surged 10 cm in Nikata. By the end of the shaking, the earthquake damaged 149 houses in Akita, Nigata, and Yamagata prefectures. There were no deaths from the quake, and 26 people were reported injured, mostly by falling objects.

    Deaths: None, 26 injured.

  • Sichuan, China - 5.8
    Photo: USGS

    Sichuan, China - 5.8

    Areas Affected: Sichuan, China; approximately 19km south of Changning, China.

    Damages: An earthquake struck Changning, China on June 17, 2019 at 10:55 p.m. Numerous buildings in Changning county were destroyed, and the tremors were felt strongly in the city of Yibin. The quake forced more than 80,000 people to evacuate the area. The amount of damage caused by the tremors was extensive, resulting in severe damage to some 46,000 homes with less significant damage hitting 110,000 houses. 

    Deaths: 13, 220 injured.