Strongest earthquake ever: 9.5 magnitude quake shook ground for 10 minutes in 1960; read hair-raising details


In 1960, the most powerful earthquake to ever be recorded shook land for approximately 10 seconds in South American country Chile. This was the biggest jolt to man from mother nature in recorded history. The massive 9.5 magnitude earthquake is famous as the Great Chilean earthquake or the Valdivia earthquake. Valdivia is the city which suffered the worst destruction.

The mighty quake occurred on May 22, 1960. Around 15:11 (local time) in the afternoon, it shook the ground violently for what seemed eternity. The result was substantial devastation as the quake led to tsunamis impacting not just Chile but Japan, Hawaii, Philippines, New Zealand and Australia too. Waves as huge as 82 feet or 25 metres wreaked havoc on Chile’s coast. It travelled far into the Pacific Ocean with waves as high as 35 feet even 10,000 kms from the quake’s epicentre.

Death toll and destruction

The exact toll of casualties is not confirmed. As per various estimates, around 1,000 to 6,000 people lost their lives. The destruction is estimated to have caused a monetary loss of around

$4 billion to $8 billion (Rs 32,000 to 65,000 crore), when adjusted for inflation in 2022. The earthquake affected all of Chile’s area between two islands in over 400,000 square kilometres. Hundreds of people reportedly died even before the tsunami hit. A ship that sank reportedly was moved from its spot for around 1.5 kms due to the quake.

A volcanic vent erupted two days after the earthquake. The death toll was relatively low, attributed to the sparse population density in the affected area. The great earthquake was responsible for nearly 25 percent of all seismic energy released around the world from 1906 to 2005. It also resulted in landslides and large-scale flooding.

READ | DNA Explainer: Why India is witnessing earthquakes so frequently? Know reason behind tremors in Delhi-NCR

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