A Look Back at Asia’s Most Devastating Earthquakes

A homeless family waits for a vehicle 27

On Aug. 5, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured the northern reaches of the Indonesian island of Lombok, killing at least 319 people, displacing more than 160,000, destroying tens of thousands of homes, and burying villagers beneath the rubble of mosques and other structures. The disaster struck exactly one week after a foreshock clocked in with a strength of 6.4-magnitude and left 20 people dead.

Lombok, which is especially popular among tourists visiting the tropical Gili Islands off its northwestern coast, lies in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, where thousands of volcano-pocked isles mark the western periphery of the Pacific Ring of Fire. This horseshoe-shaped strip curves loosely from the waters east of Australia, over maritime Southeast Asia, up the coasts of China and Russia, and down the west coast of the Americas from Alaska to Chile. Roughly 81% of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded happened along this volatile rim.

The Lombok earthquakes, while disastrous, were nowhere near as destructive as some of Asia’s earlier shocks. But scenes of villagers in mourning, rescuers scrambling through debris, hordes of tourists crowded on a beach, desperate to escape their idyllic destination — all serve as a reminder that this region of the world is a hotbed of seismic activity that can quickly turn tragic. With cities, dams and other infrastructure built atop some of the world’s most active faults, six of the ten deadliest quakes in recorded history happened in Asia, as did many of the most costly. Here’s a look at back at some of the most devastating temblors ever to strike the continent.

The 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake, China

More than 830,000 people died in the days after Jan. 23, 1556, when central China was struck by the deadliest earthquake ever recorded.

With an epicenter in the Wei River Valley, the 8-magnitude quake reverberated throughout 10 provinces — even damaging buildings in cities hundreds of miles away. It may have killed about 60% of the population in some of the worst hit counties. The horrific death toll is largely due to the collapse of several cliffs in the Loess Plateau, where many people lived in “house caves” called yaodongs. These traditional hillside dwellings, carved into the earth to create temperate caverns, crumbled to dust as the mountains shook. Landslides wiped away entire settlements.

The rupture is often referred to as the “Jiajing Great Earthquake,” a reference to the eponymous emperor of the Ming Dynasty who ruled at the time. It would be impossible to calculate the damage by modern monetary values, but its cost of human life is unmatched. Another devastating temblor struck the neighboring province of Ningxia in 1920, however, killing more than 200,000 people and making it among China’s deadliest disasters.

The 1934 Nepal-Bihar Earthquake

Some six miles south of Mount Everest, the earth began to rumble on the afternoon of Jan. 15, 1934. Little was left in the wake of Nepal’s worst recorded earthquake, a powerful 8.1-magnitude, that leveled most of three major cities in the Kathmandu Valley and tore through parts of …read more

Source:: Time – World

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