The top five quakes in the world (since 1900)1 - 1960, Chile. The largest recorded earthquake in the world, a magnitude 9.5 with thousands of people killed, injured and millions left homeless. Large tsunamis were generated and reached up to 10m in Hawaii.
2 -1964, Alaska. The 'Great Alaska Quake' was a magnitude 9.2 and generated a tsunami with a maximum wave height of 67 meters in the shallow Valdez Inlet. The tsunami caused 122 of the 131 deaths of the quake.
|The location of the top 5 quakes in the world|
4 - 2011, Japan. The magnitude 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed thousands of people. The tsunami waves traveled 10km inland and reached heights of 39m.
5 - 1952, Kamchatka, Russia. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake also caused a tsunami, with wave heights of up to 15m causing considerable loss of life and damage.
The Top Five in New ZealandAlthough magnitude is our common gauge of earthquake size, intensity is a better indicator of how the quake was felt on the surface. The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, or MM, ranges from MM1 (unnoticeable) right up to MM12 (completely devastating). To make it easier we have these intensities on the earthquakes posted on GeoNet as words: weak, light, moderate, strong, severe.
|The location of the top 5 NZ quakes|
|A damaged road after the Hawkes Bay Quake|
3 - 1931, Hawkes Bay, Also magnitude 7.8, but with an intensity of MM10, this quake is New Zealand's most devastating quake. 256 were killed, thousands injured and it altered the landscape forever. It was followed by uncontrollable fires due to broken water mains, and is recorded as having caused the largest loss of life in New Zealand’s history.
4 - 1929, Buller. Another MM10, this magnitude 7.8 quake killed 15 people, severely damaged many roads, buildings, and bridges. The massive rumbling of this quake was heard as far away as New Plymouth. It also created thirty-eight new lakes from blocked rivers and waterways. 21 still exist today.
|Ground rupture following the Buller quake|
Although not up there in size, the magnitude 6.3 Christchurch earthquake in 2011 had a MM9, and is our second most devastating quake with 185 deaths. This quake was so damaging due to its shallow (5km) depth and location within 10km of the city.
You can read more information on these, and other historic events here
It is estimated that there are 500,000 detectable earthquakes in the world each year. 100,000 of those can be felt, and 100 of them cause damage (USGS)
USGS - United States Geological Survey
GA - GeoScience Australia
Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand