An earthquake can be defined as a sudden shaking and vibration of the ground due to movement of earth’s crust (tectonic plates) or volcanic activity.

The magnitude of the earthquake, i.e how strong the earthquake was, can be measured using Moment magnitude scale. It was previously known as Richter scale. It is a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 means the strongest earthquake. Whereas, the intensity of the earthquake, that is, the amount of damage to life and property done by it can be measured using the modified Mercalli intensity scale (intensity II–XII).

Earthquakes sometime cause great loss of human life and property. They not only destroy that area but also cause long-lasting trauma and fear in people. Do you want to know which were the biggest earthquakes of the world in the past 100 years? If so, then you are at the right place as today we have a list of Top 10 Biggest Earthquakes in the Last 100 Years. These earthquakes are the ones with most magnitude, not necessarily the most damage done.

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Here goes the list:

10. 1957 Andreanof Islands earthquake

1957 andreanof Island earthquake

Andreanof Islands is a group of the Aleutian Islands in the U.S. state of Alaska. On March 9, 1957, these islands saw a massive earthquake with magnitude 8.6. This earthquake caused a tsunami with waves as high as 16 meters and eruption of a dormant volcano Mount Vsevidof. It caused a lot of damage to the buildings, but did not cause any fatalities.

9. 1950 Assam – Tibet earthquake

1950 Assam – Tibet earthquake

This earthquake is also known as the Medog earthquake. It was referred to as the subduction of two continental plates. It hit the areas of Assam, in India and Tibet in China, on August 15, 1950. It is the tenth biggest earthquake in the last 100 years. Its epicentre was near an area known as Rima, in Tibet. It caused a great deal of damage to life and property, killing about 1,526 people.

8. 2005 Sumatra earthquake or Nias Earthquake

2005 sumatra earthquake

This earthquake is also known as Nias Earthquake. It hit the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia on 28 March 2005 with a magnitude of 8.7. It was caused by the subduction of the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian plate. It killed more than 1300 people, mainly on the island of Nias. It was one of the biggest earthquake of the histiry of Indonesia.

7. 1965 Rat Islands earthquake

1965 Rat Islands earthquake

On 4 February 1965, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 8.7 hit the Rat Islands. The Rat Islands is a part of the Aleutian Islands. This earthquake caused a tsunami of over 10 m on Shemya Island. The tsunami caused more than $10,000 worth of damage on Amchitka Island. A little damage was also seen in Attu islands.

6. 2010 Chile earthquake


On 27 February 2010, a strong earthquake having magnitude 8.8 hit the coast of central Chile. It lasted about three minutes. It is the sixth biggest earthquake ever. It was felt in neighboring countries like Argentine and Peru. This earthquake caused a tsunami which destroyed many coastal towns in Chile. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries. About 525 people were killed and 25 people went missing; while it also destroed many buildings.

5. Kamchatka 1952 earthquake

Kamchatka 1952 earthquake

The Kamchatka earthquake hit Kamchatka peninsula and the Kuril Islands on November 4, 1952. Its magnitude was 9.0. This earthquake triggered a great tsunami which caused destruction and killed people in that area. It also hit the island of Hawaii and caused property damage of more than US$1 million, while no loss of life was reported here.

4. 2011 Tohoku earthquake

2011 Tohoku Earthquake

Last year, on 11 March 2011, the world saw a powerful earthquake hit Japan with a magnitude of 9.0. This earthquake is also known as ‘the Great East Japan Earthquake’ and ‘the 311 Earthquake’. It was basically an undersea earthquake off the coast of Japan. It is the biggest earthquake ever to hit Japan. This earthquake caused a great tsunami with waves more than 40.5 metres high, which traveled about 10 km inland. This tsunami resulted in the infamous Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant nuclear accident which caused the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents from that area. This earthquake and tsunami killed about 15,854 people, while 26,992 were injured. About 3,155 people went missing. This earthquake not only caused the loss of life, but also destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings.

3. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

This one was an undersea earthquake of magnitude 9.1–9.3. It occurred on 26 December 2004. It is also known as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. This earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami which is commonly known as the ’2004 Indian Ocean tsunami’ or ‘Indonesian tsunami’. This tsunami caused more than 230,000 fatalities in fourteen countries along the Indian such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand etc. It is to date one of the biggest earthquake the world has ever seen and it lasted about 8.3 and 10 minutes

2. 1964 Alaska earthquake

1964 Alaska earthquake

This earthquake is also referred to as ‘Great Alaskan Earthquake’. This earthquake shook the areas of Alaska on March 27, 1964 with a magnitude of 9.2 for about 4 minutes. It caused a great amount of damage; from destroying infrastructure to causing ground cracks to causing about 143 deaths. It caused about $311 million in property loss. Earthquake effected many areas including Chitina, Glennallen, Homer, Kasilof, Kenai, KodiakPortage, Seldovia, Seward, Sterling, Valdez and Wasilla etc.

1. 1960 Valdivia earthquake

1960 Valdivia earthquake

This ‘Great Chilean Earthquake’ is the biggest and most powerful earthquake this world has ever seen. On 22 May 1960, it shook the areas of Chile with a magnitude of 9.5. It resulted in a tsunami with waves as high as 10.7 metres. This tsunami effected areas of Chile, Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The number of fatalities caused by this earthquake and its tsunami are not certain. According to some sources about 6,000 people were killed and a damage of about 800 million US$ was done.