The Largest Earthquakes in History

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The Richter Scale: Measuring the Magnitude of Earthquakes

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The earthquake with the highest Richter scale reading ever took place in 1960, in Valdivia, Chile. Measuring 9.5, that quake killed thousands of people from the initial quake and the resulting tsunami, flooding, and fires. A quake in 2010 in Chile, measuring 8.8, is thought to have been related in some way to this even more massive quake.

The huge earthquake that took place in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, registered 9.3 on the Richter scale. That quake, which triggered a tsunami on a grand scale, caused widespread damage in 14 countries (including Sumatra, right) and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The largest earthquake ever recorded in North America took place in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964. The death toll was just more than 100 people, but the quake devastated large parts of the southern Alaskan coastline, from both the initial quake and the resulting tsunami.

Measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale was an earthquake recorded in 1755, in Lisbon, Portugal. A coastal city, Lisbon suffered nearly total devastation from the earthquake and the tsunami that followed. The death toll is thought to be as many as 100,000.

The latest quake, in Japan, measured at 8.9 on the Richter scale. It is the fifth-highest number ever measured on that scale.

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David White