Strongest Earthquakes in History | 15 Sep 2023

Source: TH

Why in News?

  • Recently, a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco killing over 2,900 people.
    • According to the Significant Earthquake Events (SEE) database, this is the strongest quake to hit Morocco.
    • The SEE database maintains some of the oldest earthquake records that fulfil certain criteria.


  • The Significant Earthquake Database is maintained by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), a US government agency.
  • It contains information on earthquakes from 2150 BCE to the present that meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • Moderate damage (approximately USD 1 million or more)
    • 10 or more deaths
    • Magnitude of 7.5 or more
    • An earthquake that generated a tsunami

What is the NCEI’s Data on Earthquakes?

  • Global Highest Earthquakes: As per NCEI, in the last 200 years, China has suffered the highest number of quakes — 428.
    • It is followed by Indonesia (366 quakes), Iran (272), Japan (256), and Turkey (209).
  • Most Severe Earthquakes: In the past 200 years, there have been four quakes with a magnitude of 9+.
    • The most severe quake struck the Chilean city of Puerto Montt in 1960 (9.5).
      • This is followed by Alaska in 1964 (9.2), Honshu (Japan) in 2011 (9.1), and Sumatra (Indonesia) in 2004 (9.1).
    • Of the 10 most severe earthquakes since 2150 BCE, seven have occurred in the last 200 years.
  • Morocco: The recent one that occurred is the strongest that hit Morocco. The deadliest ever to hit the country occurred in 1960 and killed about 13,100 people (Magnitude at 5.9).
  • India: As per NCEI, India has recorded 85 quakes in the last 200 years and ranks 16 on the list of countries with highest earthquakes.
    • The deadliest earthquake to hit India (either in the last 200 years or since 2150 BCE), occurred in 2001 in Gujarat.
      • The Bhuj earthquake (magnitude - 7.6), as it is commonly known, is considered to be the deadliest as it killed over 20,000 people.
    • However, the Bhuj earthquake was not the strongest; the 1941 earthquake in Andaman (poorly recorded due to WW-II), and the 1897 earthquake in Assam, were both considered the strongest with a magnitude of 8.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions


Q. Consider the following: (2013)

  1. Electromagnetic radiation
  2. Geothermal energy
  3. Gravitational force
  4. Plate movements
  5. Rotation of the earth
  6. Revolution of the earth

Which of the above are responsible for bringing dynamic changes on the surface of the earth?

(a) 1, 2, 3 and 4 only
(b) 1, 3, 5 and 6 only
(c) 2, 4, 5 and 6 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Ans: (d)