Earthquakes release an incredible amount of energy and are able to destroy bridges, buildings, and even entire cities in just a few minutes. Below are some pictures and descriptions of some of the most destructive earthquakes in recent history accompanied by some information about earthquakes.
The Richter Scale
The Richter Scale is a logarithmic scale for measuring the energy released by an earthquake and thus the intensity. This means that for every increase of one on the Richter scale, the amount of energy released increases by a factor of 10. Below is a chart comparing the magnitude and effects of earthquakes.
|Richter Scale Magnitude||Earthquake Effects|
|Less than 3.5||Basically unable to be felt, but is recorded by seismology labs.|
|Between 3.5 and 5.4||Usually felt, but causes minimal damage.|
|Between 5.4 and 6.0||May cause slight damage to well-designed buildings, but can cause significant damage to poorly built structures over a small region.|
|Between 6.1 and 6.9||Destructive over an area up to 60 miles in diameter|
|Between 7.0 and 7.9||Considered a major earthquake. Causes serious damage over a larger area.|
|Greater than 8.0||Very significant earthquake. Causes serious damage over an area over 100 miles in diameter.|
- Bam Earthquake - December 26, 2003
On December 26, 2003 at 5:26 AM, an earthquake shook the small town of Bam in the Kerman province of Iran. The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale and claimed the lives of over 30,000 people in one of the greatest catastrophes in the past year. The epicenter was located at 29.01 degrees North and 58.26 degrees East.
- Hyogo-Ken Nanbu Earthquake - January 17, 1995
On January 17, 1995 at 8:46 PM, an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 devastated the city of Kobe, one of Japan's most important ports. The earthquake killed approximately 5,090 people with over 29,000 injured and missing. Over 100,000 buildings were completely destroyed, leaving approximately one-fifth of the Kobe's 1.5 million people homeless. The epicenter was located at 34.58 degrees North and 135.02 degrees East, near the intersection of three plates: the Pacific, Eurasian, and Pilippine.
A map depicting Kobe, the intersection of the three plates, the location of epicenters from previous earthquakes, and areas of the subduction fault which broke in 1944 and 1946.
Click either of the above pictures for a larger version.
- Northridge Earthquake - January 17, 1994
On January 17, 1994 at 4:31 AM, an earthquake shook Northridge, a suburb of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. The earthquake measured a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale but only caused a relatively small amount of damage since this is one of the best earthquake-prepared areas in the world. Most people were asleep at the time, reducing the number of casualties to only 57.
Click on the pictures above to view a larger version.