Where Does the Chile Quake Rank?

On February 27, 2010, a tremendous 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, not far from from the site of the largest-ever recorded temblor in 1960, which registered 9.5 on the scale. Because of its remoteness, and Chile's wealth and well-developed infrastructure, the 2010 quake probably won't rank among the world's deadliest, despite its size. Not like the January 13, 2010, quake in Haiti that might become the deadliest of all time; there, the dead already number over 230,000 from the 7.0-magnitude incident.

Currently, the Haiti temblor is among the 10 deadliest quakes since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. No. 1 on the list is the 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China, with an official casualty figure of 255,000 (but some estimates suggested that as many as 655,000 died). Reaching farther back in time, the deadliest earthquake in recorded history (also in China, in 1556) claimed an estimated 830,000 lives. Not counting the current Haiti incident, here are the top 10 global earthquakes, in terms of deaths, since 1900, according to the USGS.

The USGS says this is probably the second-highest death toll from an earthquake in recorded history, with only the 1556 quake in Shansi, China, taking more lives (an estimated 830,000).

The quake was the third largest in magnitude since 1900, and its resulting tsunami claimed more lives than any other in recorded history. The original death estimate of 286,000 was reduced when Indonesia revised its numbers. The Christmas Tsunami affected 14 countries from South Asia to East Africa. Here, a man offers prayers for the soul of his sister, believed drowned, near Khao Lak, Thailand.

This devastating quake (sometimes called the Gansu earthquake) affected seven provinces and regions, flattening entire cities and burying whole villages. 

Often referred to as the Great Tokyo Earthquake, this seismic event and its resulting fires destroyed about half the houses in that city (pictured here). The port city of Yokohama and surrounding prefectures were also severely damaged.

The lasting impact of this 7.3-magnitude earthquake is clear when you consider that Turkmenistan still marks Oct. 6 as a national holiday in remembrance of the victims. Here, a memorial to the victims in Ashgabat. The quake also took lives and inflicted damage in nearby Iran.

6. Sichuan, China (May 2008)
Deaths: 87,587
Mark Ralston / AFP-Getty Images

Millions of people in 10 provinces and regions were affected, with at least 5 million left homeless. The loss of thousands of children, who were killed when their schools collapsed, is a lasting image of this event. Pictured here, a mother cries as her child's body is removed from a school. The earthquake was felt as far away as Bangladesh, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

An estimated 4 million were left homeless as the region's brutal winter approached. Here, a father carries his injured child in Balakot. In parts of Kashmir, entire villages were wiped out.

8. Messina, Italy (December 1908)
Deaths: 72,000
Hulton Archive-Getty Images

The city of Messina lost more than 40 percent of its population in this quake and the resulting tsunami and fires. Some estimates put the death toll at 110,000. Aftershocks continued until 1913.

Here, the town of Yungay (population: 20,000) was buried in an avalanche and is now declared a national cemetery. 

This 7.4-magnitude quake destroyed nearly all buildings in the Rudbar-Manjil area. Here, women in Manjil mourn the loss of relatives. The event was felt in most of northwest Iran and southern Azerbaijan.

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