Iraq-Iran earthquake: From Bhuj to Haiti, the deadliest quakes of this century

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More than 120 people were killed in Iran and at least several others in Iraq on Sunday when a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the region, state media in the two countries said, as rescuers stepped up efforts overnight to find dozens trapped under rubble.

The electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather. Residents of Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir also reported feeling a strong tremor, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in the city.

Here are the some of the deadliest earthquakes of this century:

2001 Gujarat earthquake, India

An earthquake of 7.7 magnitude hit Gujarat on January 26, 2001 and lasted for over 2 minutes. The Bhuj earthquake, as it came to be known, left utter destruction in its wake, killing over 30,000 people and destroying 400,000 homes.

2003 Bam earthquake, Iran

On December 26, 2003, a 6.6 quake struck the city of Bam and its surroundings in southeast Iran. Though it was a moderate-magnitude earthquake, yet the time it struck – 5.30 am when most people were sleeping – as well as the poor disaster planning in the city resulted in high casualties. Almost 30,000 people died and up to 90 per cent of buildings in the tourist hub of Bam were destroyed.

2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake

On December 26, 2004, an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over the next seven hours, a tsunami—a series of immense ocean waves—triggered by the quake devastated coastal areas as far away as East Africa.

The loss of life, long-term environmental damage and economic impact wrought by the tsunami was immense. At least 225,000 people died across a dozen countries, while Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, and Thailand sustained heavy damage and devastating losses.

2005 Kashmir earthquake

On October 8, 2005, at 8.50 am an earthquake occurred in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The epicentre was around the city of Muzaffarabad, but parts of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The earthquake’s magnitude was 7.6 and had a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe).

The official death toll was around 87,350 though estimates suggest it was higher. Hospitals, schools, and rescue services were paralysed, leading to even more casualties.

2006 Java earthquake, Indonesia

In the early morning hours of May 27, 2006, a powerful earthquake rattled Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia. Roads and bridges were destroyed, buildings collapsed. On the first day itself, 3,500 died, but the death toll eventually climbed to 6,234, according to the WHO.

The May 27 quake was unusual in that it was centered about 10 kilometers under the Earth’s surface, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

2008 Sichuan earthquake, China

Also called the Wenchuan Earthquake or Wenchuan Great Earthquake, the 7.9 earthquake devastated the mountainous central region of Sichuan province in southwestern China on May 12, 2008. The epicentre was located near the city of Dujiangyan.

Almost 90,000 people were counted as dead or missing, including more than 5,300 children. Aftershocks occurred in the days, months, and years that followed, including a magnitude-5.0 event that struck Chengdu in May 2010.

2009 Sumatra earthquake, Indonesia

An earthquake of magnitude of 7.6 struck offshore of the town of Padang in Sumatra, Indonesia at 5 pm on September 30. A second quake measuring 6.2 occurred 22 minutes later, while a third one, measuring 6.8, struck an inland area 225 km the following morning as rescue operations were underway.

The combined destructive force of the three earthquakes caused widespread damage. Entire villages were levelled and the death toll climbed to 1,117.

A man stands next to his bed after a storm destroyed his home at a camp set up for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. ( AP File Photo )

2010 Haiti earthquake

The deadly quake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, while the lower intensity aftershocks followed. The epicentre was15 miles (25 km) southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian government’s official death count was more than 300,000, while other estimates ranged between 100,000 to about 160,000. Haiti had not been hit by an earthquake of such enormity since the 18th century, the closest in force being a 1984 shock of magnitude 6.9. Haiti was poorly prepared for the quake and approximately one-third of the country’s population was severely affected.

2011 Tohuku earthquake and tsunami, Japan

A magnitude-9 earthquake unleashed a tsunami, ravaging northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

The effects of the great quake were felt around the world, but one of the most appalling consequences was the damage sustained by Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a level 7 nuclear meltdown after the tsunami.

The number of confirmed deaths was more than 20,000, mostly due to drowning. Japan is still grappling with the damage unleashed by the great earthquake, with total damages estimated at $300 billion dollars (about 25 trillion yen).

2015 Nepal earthquake

About 90,000 people were killed as a severe 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal on April 25, 2015. Two mighty aftershocks, with magnitudes 6.6 and 6.7, were felt within an hour of the main quake, but the region experienced several smaller aftershocks in the coming days. A May 12 aftershock in Kathmandu, measuring 7.3, killed more than 100 people.

More than 600,000 structures in Kathmandu and other nearby towns were either damaged or destroyed. The earthquake was felt throughout central and eastern Nepal, much of the Ganges River plain in northern India, and northwestern Bangladesh, as well as in the southern parts of the Plateau of Tibet and western Bhutan.

The Swayambhunath Stupa a year before and after the earthquake. ( Raj K Raj/Gurinder Osan/HT File Photo )

2017 Mexico earthquakes

At least 32 people were killed after a massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake, one of the biggest recorded in Mexico, struck off the country’s southern coast on September 8, causing cracks in buildings and triggering a small tsunami.

Mexico’s civil protection agency said it was the strongest earthquake to hit the capital since a devastating 1985 tremor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.

The quake was followed by another 7.1-magnitude quake in central Mexico, which killed at least 338. At least 38 buildings collapsed after the second powerful quake of the month in the capital Mexico City. According to preliminary estimates, repairing and rebuilding homes after the two big earthquakes could cost upward of $2 billion.

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