By English edition staff
Published: 2008-05-16

According to US Geological Survey statistics, there have been altogether 84 earthquakes that registered 7.0 magnitude or higher on the Richter scale with over 1,000 deaths since 1900, including the latest in Sichuan, China. Of these, 15 occurred in China, 13 in Iran, 10 in Turkey, eight in Japan, and three respectively in Pakistan and Chile.

Death tolls from the top ten deadliest earthquakes since 1900 vary from 40,900 to 255,000. Among them, three occurred in China, including the first, third and tenth most deadly. All of the ten were above 7.0 magnitude.

Of the above-mentioned three earthquakes in China, two occurred in the 1920s, and the other, also the top of the list, in 1976 in Tangshan of east China. Though all below 8.0 magnitude, they caused a total of 495,900 deaths.

Five earthquakes were above 8.5 magnitude since 1900, which respectively occurred in Ecuador, China, Chile, Sumatra, and Indonesia sorted by time. Of them, four had less than 1,700 deaths. The strongest, a 9.5 magnitude quake in Chile in 1960, caused 1,655 deaths, while the second strongest of 9.1 magnitude in Sumatra in 2004 killed over 200,000 people.

Top Ten Deadliest Earthquakes Since 1900

& Date

& Death Toll


Tangshan, China
1976 07 27

255,000 (official)

Estimated death toll as high as 655,000. 799,000 injured and damage extended as far as Beijing. Probably the biggest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries.

2004 12 26


The third largest earthquake in the world since 1900. 227,898 people were killed or went missing and presumed dead. Subsequent tsunami occurred in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa.

Haiyuan, Ningxia, China
1920 12 16



Total destruction in the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Damage occurred in 7 provinces and regions. It was felt from the Yellow Sea to Qinghai Province and from Inner Mongolia south to central Sichuan Province.

Kanto, Japan
1923 09 01


Extreme destruction in the Tokyo-Yokohama area from the earthquake and subsequent firestorms. The damage was most severe at Yokohama and extended on the Boso, Izu Peninsulas and O-shima.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
1948 10 05


Extreme damage in Ashgabat and nearby villages. Damage and casualties also occurred in Iran. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release on 9 Dec 1988 advised the correct death toll was 110,000.

2005 10 08


At least 86,000 people killed, more than 69,000 injured and extensive damage in northern Pakistan. Entire villages were destroyed in the Muzaffarabad area. Damage and casualties extended to India.

Messina, Italy
1908 12 28


Over 40% of the population of Messina and more than 25% of Reggio di Calabria killed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Also felt on Malta, in Montenegro and Albania and on the Ionian Islands.

Chimbote, Peru
1970 05 31


About 50,000 people were killed - 20,000 missing and presumed dead - and 150,000 injured. A debris avalanche of rock, ice and mud buried the town of Yungay, which had a population of about 20,000.

Western Iran
1990 06 20

40,000 to 50,000

Estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people killed, more than 60,000 injured, 400,000 or more homeless. Extensive damage and landslides in the Rasht-Qazvin-Zanjan area, Iran. Nearly all buildings were destroyed in the Rudbar-Manjil area.

Gulang, Gansu, China
1927 05 22


Extreme damage in the Gulang-Wuwei area. It was felt as far as 700 km from the epicenter. This area along the base of the Qilian Shan was part of the Silk Road connecting China with Central Asia.