Future — Earthquake

Tectonic Plates

Generally earthquakes are the result of the movement of tectonic plates. Earth's outer shell, the lithosphere, long thought to be a continuous, unbroken, crust is actually a fluid mosaic of many irregular rigid segments, or plates. Comprised primarily of cool, solid rock 4 to 40 miles thick, these enormous blocks of Earth's crust vary in size and shape, and have definite borders that cut through continents and oceans alike.


Tectonic plates (large)

Powered by forces originating in Earth's radioactive, solid iron inner core, these tectonic plates move ponderously about at varying speeds and in different directions atop a layer of much hotter, softer, more malleable rock called the asthenosphere. Because of the high temperatures and immense pressures found here, the uppermost part of the asthenosphere is deformed and flows slowly just beneath the Earth's surface. This characteristic of the asthenosphere, to flow, allows the plates to inch along on their endless journeys around the surface of the earth, moving no faster than human fingernails grow.


Diagram of the Earth

There are 3 primary types of Tectonic Plate boundaries: Divergent boundaries; Convergent boundaries; and Transform boundaries. As the giant plates move, diverging (pulling apart) or converging (coming together) along their borders, tremendous energies are unleashed resulting in tremors that transform Earth's surface. While all the plates appear to be moving at different relative speeds and independently of each other, the whole jigsaw puzzle of plates is interconnected. No single plate can move without affecting others, and the activity of one can influence another thousands of miles away.

Tectonics in Europe

The movement of the ground around Europe is shown here:


Peak ground acceleration (large)

History of deadly earthquakes

Credit: BBC

05 August 2018. More than 460 people are killed after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok. It levelled homes, mosques and businesses, displacing some 350,000 people. An earlier 6.4 magnitude tremor on 29 July killed at least 16, and the region has suffered hundreds of aftershocks.

12 November 2017. A magnitude 7.3 earthquake, the fourth largest in 2017 up to that point, strikes the Iran-Iraq border. About 440 people are killed and another 10,000 injured as the quake is felt in Israel and across the Gulf.

19 September 2017. At least 369 people die - most in and around Mexico City - during a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. It follows a more powerful but less deadly earthquake 12 days before; the 7 September quake was a magnitude 8.1, the most powerful to hit the country in a century, but its epicentre was offshore.

24 August 2016. At least 298 people are killed when a magnitude 6 earthquake strikes central Italy. Worst hit is Amatrice, where many of the town's historic buildings collapse.

16 April 2016. A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake strikes Ecuador's coast, killing more than 650 people. More than 16,000 people are hurt and some 7,000 buildings destroyed.

26 October 2015. Almost 400 people are killed when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake strikes north-eastern Afghanistan. Most of those killed are in Pakistan, but the quake is also felt in northern India and Tajikistan.

25 April 2015. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake kills more than 8,000 people and leaves hundreds of thousands homeless, in the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934. In some parts of the country, the quake flattens 98% of all homes in hillside villages.

03 August 2014. Approximately 600 people are killed in a 6.1-magnitude earthquake that strikes Yunnan province in China. Thousands of houses are destroyed and landslides are triggered. More than 2,400 people are injured.

15 October 2013. More than 200 people are reported to have died after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake strikes centrally-located Bohol and Cebu in the Philippines.

25 September 2013. More than 300 people are killed as a 7.7 magnitude quake flattens entire villages in Pakistan's remote south-western province of Balochistan, mainly in the district of Awaran.

11 August 2012. At least 250 people are killed and more than 2,000 injured in north-west Iran by two powerful quakes which strikes within minutes of each other near the towns of Tabriz and Ahar.

23 October 2011. More than 200 people are killed and 1,000 are injured in a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake which hits south-eastern Turkey; many of the victims are in the town of Ercis, where dozens of buildings collapsed.

11 March 2011. A devastating magnitude 8.9 quake strikes Japan, leaving more than 20,000 people dead or missing. The tremor generates a massive tsunami along the Japanese coast and triggers the world's biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

22 February 2011. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake shatters the New Zealand city of Christchurch, killing more than 160 people and damaging some 100,000 homes.

14 April 2010. At least 400 people die after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake strikes western China's Qinghai province.

27 February 2010. A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hits central Chile north-east of the second city, Concepcion. Official figures put the total number of people at over 700.

12 January 2010. About 230,000 die in and around the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes the city.

30 September 2009. At least 1,000 people die and at least 1,000 remain missing after an earthquake strikes the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

06 April 2009. An earthquake hits the historic Italian city of L'Aquila, killing about 300 people.

29 October 2008. Up to 300 people are killed in the Pakistani province of Balochistan after an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude struck 45 miles (70km) north of Quetta.

12 May 2008. Up to 87,000 people are killed or missing and as many as 370,000 injured by an earthquake in just one county in China's south-western Sichuan province. The tremor, measuring 7.8, struck 57 miles (92km) from the provincial capital Chengdu during the early afternoon.

15 August 2007. At least 519 people are killed in Peru's coastal province of Ica, as a 7.90-magnitude undersea earthquake strikes about 90 miles (145km) south-east of the capital, Lima.

17 July 2006. A 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake triggers a tsunami that strikes a 125 miles (200km) stretch of the southern coast of Java, killing more than 650 people on the Indonesian island.

27 May 2006. More than 5,700 people die when a magnitude 6.2 quake hits the Indonesian island of Java, devastating the city of Yogyakarta and surrounding areas.

08 October 2005. An earthquake measuring 7.6 strikes northern Pakistan and the disputed Kashmir region, killing more than 73,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

28 March 2005. About 1,300 people are killed in an 8.7 magnitude quake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Nias, west of Sumatra.

22 February 2005. Hundreds die in a 6.4 magnitude quake centred in a remote area near Zarand in Iran's Kerman province.

26 December 2004. Hundreds of thousands are killed across Asia when an earthquake measuring 9.2 triggers sea surges that spread across the region.

24 February 2004. At least 500 people die in an earthquake which strikes towns on Morocco's Mediterranean coast.

26 December 2003. More than 26,000 people are killed when an earthquake destroys the historic city of Bam in southern Iran.

21 May 2003. Algeria suffers its worst earthquake in more than two decades. More than 2,000 people die and more than 8,000 are injured in a quake felt across the sea in Spain.

01 May 2003. More than 160 people are killed, including 83 children in a collapsed dormitory, in south-eastern Turkey.

24 February 2003. More than 260 people die and almost 10,000 homes are destroyed in Xinjiang region, in western China.

31 October 2002. Italy is traumatised by the loss of an entire class of children, killed in the southern village of San Giuliano di Puglia when their school building collapses on them.

26 January 2001. An earthquake measuring magnitude 7.9 devastates much of Gujarat state in north-western India, killing nearly 20,000 people and making more than a million homeless. Bhuj and Ahmedabad are among the towns worst hit.

12 November 1999. Around 400 people die when an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale strikes Ducze, in north-west Turkey.

21 September 1999. Taiwan is hit by a quake measuring 7.6 that kills nearly 2,500 people and causes damage to every town on the island.

17 August 1999. An magnitude 7.4 earthquake rocks the Turkish cities of Izmit and Istanbul, leaving more than 17,000 dead and many more injured.

30 May 1998. Northern Afghanistan is hit by a major earthquake, killing 4,000 people.

10 May 1997. More than 1,600 killed in Birjand, eastern Iran, in an earthquake of magnitude 7.1.

27 May 1995. The far eastern island of Sakhalin is hit by a massive earthquake, measuring 7.5, which claims the lives of 1,989 Russians.

17 January 1995. The Hyogo quake hits the city of Kobe in Japan, killing 6,430 people.

30 September 1993. About 10,000 villagers are killed in western and southern India.

21 June 1990. About 40,000 people die in a tremor in the northern Iranian province of Gilan.

07 December 1988. An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale devastates north-west Armenia, killing 25,000 people.

19 September 1985. Mexico City is shaken by a huge earthquake which razes buildings and kills 10,000 people.

04 March 1977. Some 1,500 people are killed in an earthquake that hit close to the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

28 July 1976. The Chinese city of Tangshan is reduced to rubble in a quake that claims at least 250,000 lives.

23 December 1972. Up to 10,000 people are killed in the Nicaraguan capital Managua by an earthquake that measures 6.5 on the Richter scale. The devastation caused by the earthquake was blamed on badly built high-rise buildings that easily collapsed.

31 May 1970. An earthquake high in the Peruvian Andes triggers a landslide burying the town of Yungay and killing 66,000 people.

26 July 1963. An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale strikes the Macedonian capital of Skopje killing 1,000 and leaving 100,000 homeless.

22 May 1960. The world's strongest recorded earthquake devastates Chile, with a reading of 9.5 on the Richter scale. A tsunami 30ft (10m) high eliminates entire villages in Chile. Death toll reports vary widely, but many settle on the 2,000 mark.

01 September 1923. The Great Kanto earthquake, with its epicentre just outside Tokyo, claims the lives of 142,800 people in the Japanese capital.

28 December 1908. Earthquake around 7.1 magnitude and subsequent tsunami in Italy's Messina Strait, badly affecting the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria. Deaths estimated at 70,000-80,000.

18 April 1906. San Francisco is hit by a series of violent shocks which last up to a minute. Between 700 and 3,000 people die either from collapsing buildings or in the subsequent fire.

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