Mankind has learned to build smart machines, conquers space. We are subject to microparticles and many mysteries of nature are discovered. However, nature does not give up so easily – people have not learned how to deal with the most powerful manifestations of her temper.
Numerous earthquakes occur on the planet, and a man so completely did not understand their reasons, did not learn to predict them accurately. For only one year on Earth, there are up to a million earthquakes, most of which are marked only by scientists and sensitive instruments.
In addition, most of this activity falls on the ocean floor. The strength of earthquakes is estimated by some special scales, the most famous of which is the Richter magnitude scale.
However, people are more interested not in the power of earthquakes, but in the consequences associated with it, including human victims. Let’s talk about the 10 most famous and destructive earthquakes in the history of mankind, noting the geographic and geological connection of some of them.
In 1556, the most devastating earthquake in human history took place, called the Great Chinese earthquake. It occurred on January 23, 1556 in the province of Shaanxi. Historians believe that the natural disaster claimed the lives of about 830,000 people, more than any other similar event. Some areas of Shaanxi were depopulated completely, and in the rest more than half of the people died. Such a huge number of victims was explained by the fact that most of the inhabitants lived in loess caves, which at the first shocks immediately collapsed or were later flooded with mudflows. According to modern estimates, this earthquake was awarded a category of 11 points. One of the eyewitnesses warned his descendants that with the onset of the disaster, one should not rush headlong into the street: “When a bird’s nest falls from a tree, eggs often remain unscathed.” Such words are evidence that many people died while trying to leave their homes. The destructiveness of the earthquake is evidenced by the ancient steams of Xian collected in the local Bailey Museum. Many of them crumbled or cracked. During the cataclysm, the Wild Geese Pagoda located there stood, but its foundation sank 1.6 meters.
The second strongest earthquake also occurred in China. July 28, 1976 in the province of Hebei Tangshan earthquake took place. Its magnitude was 8.2 balls, which makes the event the largest natural disaster of the century. The official death toll was 242419 people. However, most likely the figure was understated by the authorities of the PRC in 3-4 times. Suspicion is based on the fact that according to Chinese documents, the magnitude of the earthquake is indicated only in 7.8 points. Tangshan was almost immediately destroyed by powerful tremors, the epicenter of which was at a depth of 22 km under the city. Even Tianjin and Beijing, which are 140 kilometers from the epicenter, were destroyed. The consequences of the disaster were terrible – 5.3 million homes were destroyed and damaged to such an extent that it was impossible to live in them. The number of victims increased due to a series of shocks to 7.1 points. Today in the center of Tangshan is a stele, which recalls a terrible catastrophe, there is also an information center dedicated to those events. It is a kind of museum on this subject, the only one in China.
The third, and according to some estimates and the second most powerful, is the underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean, held on December 26, 2004. It caused a tsunami, which caused most of the damage. Scientists estimate the magnitude of the earthquake from 9.1 to 9.3 points. The epicenter was under water, north of the island of Simolue, north-west of Indonesian Sumatra. Huge waves reached the shores of Thailand, southern India and Indonesia. Then the height of the waves reached 15 meters.Huge destruction and casualties were inflicted on many territories, including Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which is 6,900 km from the epicenter. The exact number of victims is unknown, but it is estimated at between 225 and 300 thousand people. The true figure can not be calculated, since many bodies were simply carried away by water in the sea. Curiously, but a few hours before the arrival of the tsunami, many animals reacted sensitively to the impending catastrophe – they left the coastal zones, moving to the elevation.
The earthquake in Aleppo, also called the Aleppo earthquake, occurred in 1138, its peak occurred on 11 October on the province of Aleppo. One of the most powerful cataclysms in the history of mankind has brought about 230 thousand dead. The catastrophe took place in several stages, covering the territory of the north of Syria, south-west Turkey, present-day Iran and Azerbaijan. Almost a year later, on September 30, 1139, a powerful blow of nature was repeated in the area of the modern city of Ganja in Azerbaijan. The first strikes took place on September 17, 1138, then the peak of the mountain Kapaz collapsed in the gorge of the river Agsu. On the site of the dam, Lake Goygol was formed, now it is in Azerbaijan. The next blow, October 11, directly affected the city of Aleppo – a large and crowded city since ancient times. It was geologically located along a system of geographic faults that separated the Arabian and African tectonic plates. Their constant interaction and caused the earthquake. Ibn al-Qalanisi, the chronicler of Damascus accurately indicated his date, indicating in addition the number of victims – more than 230 thousand people. Such a scale of destruction and victims shocked contemporaries, including knights-crusaders from Europe. Then in the north-western part of the city, what a city could boast of a population of 10 thousand people. But in the territory of the former Byzantium and the Arab Emirates, crowded cities were not a curiosity (Constantinople, Alexandria, Aleppo, Antioch). The population of Aleppo could be restored only by the beginning of the XIX century, when it again reached the mark of 200 thousand townspeople. However, the city continued to pursue misfortunes – in 1822 there was another earthquake, in 1827 there was a plague, and after 5 years – cholera.
In 2010, a devastating earthquake occurred in Haiti. January 12, 22 km from the capital, Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 13 km, powerful tremors began. The main one had a magnitude of 7 points, after which many smaller ones, including 15 with a magnitude greater than 5, were recorded. This earthquake was the result of movements of the earth’s crust and contact of the Caribbean and North American lithospheric plates. Such a strong earthquake here already was, in 1751, but the number of victims was not so great. In 2010, only according to official figures, 222,570 people were killed and about 311,000 wounded. Material damage to the country was estimated at 5.6 billion dollars. The element destroyed thousands of houses in Port-au-Prince, the city was left without hospitals. As a result, about 3 million people were left homeless. The National Palace, the buildings of the Ministries of Finance, Communications, Culture, Public Works were destroyed. The cathedral also disappeared. The biggest blow fell on the capital of the country with a population of 2.5 million people. The remaining areas of Haiti suffered slightly.
Earthquake in Damgang occurred in the territory of present-day Iran in 856 year. The impact strength was 7.9 points. As a result, a 320-kilometer cleft was formed. Then the city of Damgan was the capital of Iran. December 22, the element killed about 200 thousand people, and the magnitude of the strike was 8 points. The earthquake became one of the links of a chain of these, called the Alpid. As a result of this series there was also a mountain range with the same name, which is in the center of one of the most dangerous seismic zones of the planet. Names she served as the cause of 17% of the world’s largest earthquakes and 6% of the total are such on the planet.Damgan is located not far from Ardabil, which will be discussed later, this coincidence is not accidental.
On December 16, 1920, in the Chinese province of Gansu, a devastating earthquake took place, estimated at 7.8 on the Richter scale. Its magnitude is estimated at 8.6. Experts assess the similarity of events with the Great Chinese earthquake. As then, a large number of victims was caused by the characteristics of the ground, which caused loess landslides and landslides. Under them were whole villages, and the total number of victims was from 180 to 240 thousand people. At the same time, at least 20 thousand people died from the cold, from which they simply had nowhere to hide.
Another famous earthquake in Iran occurred in 893 in Ardabil. This locality is located in the north-west of the country, not far from the Caspian Sea. The details of the tragedy have not reached us very much, however, seismologists say that at least 150 thousand people died at that time. The catastrophe has similar signs of its origin with the tragedy in Damgan, the weaker jolts do not stop here until now.
Japan is not for nothing considered a dangerous seismic zone – September 1, 1923, there was the Great Kanto earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3. Its name was given to the disaster by the name of the province, which received the bulk of the damage. It is also customary to refer to the earthquake as Tokyo or Yokohama, as it almost completely destroyed these cities. By its scale, this phenomenon has become the most destructive in the history of the country. The epicenter of the earthquake was 90 km south-west of Tokyo, on the seabed. Since September 1, within two days, there have been 356 tremors. Changes in the seabed caused 12-meter tsunamis, which completely destroyed coastal villages. At 65 kilometers from the epicenter was Yokohama, which was destroyed more than 20% of all buildings. Fires started, which were intensified by the wind. In the port there was a spilled petrol, the flame was rising to a height of 60 meters. Almost all the means to combat fires died at the very first shocks. On the railway between Tokyo and Yokohama, the elements twisted the rails, which caused the train to leave them. In Tokyo, buildings were destroyed a little less, but here there were fires. People tried to get out into the open places, but it could become a trap. So, on one of the squares of the capital 40 thousand people were suffocated when the nearest houses began to burn. The Tokyo water lines were destroyed, and the fire trucks could not reach their destination. The fire completed the work of the earthquake – about half the buildings were destroyed in the city. As a result, the earthquake affected an area of 56 thousand square kilometers. In addition to Tokyo and Yokohama, the city of Yokosuko was practically destroyed and 8 smaller ones. Officially, 174 thousand people were reported dead, more than a million Japanese remained homeless, more or less 4 million people were affected in varying degrees. Material damage to the country was estimated in its two annual budgets, it was even considered a variant of the transfer of the capital from Tokyo.
The Ashkhabad earthquake that occurred on the night of October 5-6, 1948 in Turkmenistan, closes the ten. At the epicenter, the force was 9-10 points, and the magnitude was 7.3. The blows began at a shallow depth of 10-12 km, the focus was linearly extended along the foot of the Kopet Dag and stretched for 40 kilometers. The main damage was brought by two powerful jolts, followed with an interval of 5-8 seconds. The strength of the first was about 8 points, the second became even more powerful – 9 points. Closer to the morning took place and the third powerful push in 7-8 points. The jumps with a damped amplitude were repeated for another 4 days. The disaster destroyed 90-98% of all buildings in Ashgabat. According to different estimates, from 50 to 66% of the city’s population died, and that’s up to 100 thousand people! Eyewitnesses call the figure and in 150 thousand. In the Soviet Union, official media reported on the tragedy extremely sparingly.It was said only that “the earthquake entailed human casualties,” but the real scale was hushed up. In the press, there were no figures on the number of dead. A large number of them is connected both with the time of the earthquake and with the peculiarities of architecture – in Ashgabat there were a lot of buildings with flat roofs. To dismantle the rubble and save the survivors, to fight the consequences of the disaster, 4 military divisions were even introduced into the city.