Earthquakes kill, on average, about 20,000 people annually. In which countries are they most common and where was the biggest one recorded?
Earthquakes affect many parts of the world every year. This natural phenomeon can also lead to tsunamis and volcanic eruptions causing even more damage. The world is divided into seismic zones based on the tectonic plates and the magnitude of earthquakes.
Which are Earth’s seismic zones?
Principally, according to USGS, there are three main seismic zones in which earthquakes occur. The first one is called the circum-Pacific seismic belt. It is found along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where about 81 percent of our planet’s largest earthquakes occur. The belt exists along boundaries of tectonic plates, where plates of mostly oceanic crust are sinking (or subducting) beneath another plate. Earthquakes in these subduction zones are caused by slip between plates and rupture within plates.
The second one is the Alpide earthquake belt which extends from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic. This belt accounts for about 17 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes, including some of the most destructive.
The third prominent belt follows the submerged mid-Atlantic Ridge. The ridge marks where two tectonic plates are spreading apart. Most of the mid-Atlantic Ridge is deep underwater and far from human development, but Iceland, which sits directly over the mid-Atlantic Ridge, has experienced earthquakes as large as at least 6.9 magnitude.
Which country is the most affected by earthquakes?
By numerous accounts, Japan has the most registered earthquakes per year. The whole country is in a very active seismic area, and they have the densest seismic network in the world, so they are able to record many earthquakes. According to a statistic, in the last decade, Japan has faced over 100 major earthquakes, most of them resulting in large numbers of victims.
During 2020, Japan was shaken by 9 quakes of magnitude 6.0 or above, 112 quakes between 5.0 and 6.0, 613 quakes between 4.0 and 5.0, 405 quakes between 3.0 and 4.0, and 221 quakes between 2.0 and 3.0.
Due to the subduction of the Philippine Sea plate beneath the Okinawa plate and Amurian plate, Japan has observed a series of several high-intensity earthquakes. On March 11, 2011, a deadly earthquake had shaken the entire country. It was the 4’th highest earthquake ever recorded and it had a magnitutde of 9.1. It was also the costliest natural calamity for Japan.
Other countries highly affected by earthquakes are Indonesia and China, being in the same tectonic region as Japan. Tonga and Fiji have the most earthquakes per unit area. On the other hand, countries like Malta, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and scandinavic countries (Norway, Sweeden and Finland) are the safest places on earth in case of earthquakes. According to Worldatlas, in the last five centuries, Malta has had only seven earthquakes.
Which was the highest recorded earthquake?
The largest quake ever recorded was near Valdivia, in southern Chile on May 22, 1960. This earthquake was measured at a magnitude of 9.5, lasted for 10 minutes and triggered a tsunami. Estimates of the number killed by the natural disaster in Chile vary between 1,000 and 6,000. Different sources have estimated the monetary cost ranged from $3.46 billion to $6.91 billion.
The deadliest, and second largest, earthquake ever recorded struck the island of Sumatra in Indonesia in 2004. The magnitude 9.3 quake triggered a catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean which is believed to have killed more than 280,000 people in several countries.