Valdivia, Chile 1960
The Valdivia earthquake of May 22, 1960, was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. Reaching a magnitude of 9.5, the devastating natural disaster displaced two million people from their homes, caused at least 3000 injuries, and took the lives of 1655 people. Though the ruinous effects of the temblor were felt throughout Chile and other parts of South America, the earthquake was named for the city that it brought the most destruction: Valdivia. The shifting tectonic plates also sparked a series of tsunamis, which rippled throughout the world, wrecking communities in New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and Hawaii.
San Francisco, California 1906
On April 18, 1906, the great San Francisco earthquake rocked California. Though the shaking only lasted for 45 to 60 seconds, it was felt across Oregon, Nevada, Los Angeles, and, most fervently, San Francisco. In addition to toppling buildings, the earthquake ignited a number of fires around the city that blazed for three days and destroyed hundreds of city blocks. Unfortunately, the disaster killed about 3000 people and left 400,000 more residents without a home. For many weeks following the earthquake, displaced residents of San Francisco were forced to sleep in tents, eat from food banks and live in crowded, unsanitary parks. This image of San Francisco’s crumbling city hall provides a glimpse into the widespread wreckage that resulted from the shifting of the San Andreas fault – one of the most damaging natural disasters in all of US history.
When will the next earthquake happen? Here’s what to expect when the Big One strikes.
The Great Alaskan earthquake of 1964 was the second largest earthquake ever recorded – second only to Valdivia. At a merciless magnitude of 9.2, the earthquake shuddered for four and a half minutes beneath the Prince William Sound region of Alaska. As the ground quaked and quivered, tsunamis washed over the coastal towns of Valdez, Whittier, Seward and Kodiak, and a landslide crushed the city of Anchorage. Though 131 people were killed by the natural disaster, the death toll was relatively low for an earthquake of such a powerful magnitude. To this day, the Great Alaskan temblor is the largest earthquake to ever hit North America. This image depicts a photographer capturing the ruins of Valdez from the top of an abandoned car. In the background, mountains of debris climb in every direction, smoke billows from a building, and, besides the one photographer, the town is deserted.