Destructive tidal waves, devastating hurricanes, town flattening tornadoes, catastrophic floods, unpredictable volcanoes and more - Earth can certainly be a dangerous place to live. But one of the most dangerous natural disasters is unquestionably the all powerful earthquake. It causes death and destruction wherever it strikes. Whole towns and cities have been ruined in earthquakes. There are some earthquake prone countries that are certainly more susceptible to this natural disaster around the world.
Are earthquakes predictable? The simple answer to this is no. Earthquakes are quite unpredictable and they can strike anywhere anytime. However, scientific advances have helped scientists to gain a better understanding of when and where these destructive disasters may strike. Having said this, there are some countries which are more prone to earthquakes than other places. So, here is our list of the top 9 most earthquake prone countries around the world.
There are only a handful of countries as dangerous to live in as Indonesia. It isn’t only is the country's elevation situated at Pacific sea level, but almost half of the country's elevation is under sea level which can be a massive problem during earthquakes. The whole area can basically liquefy if an earthquake of sufficient magnitude hits. But the complications don’t end here. The elevation of the country's capital, Jakarta, is so low it prone to severe flooding.
Java and Sumatra are two other Indonesian islands which can be quite hazardous. The Center of Hazard and Risk Research at Columbia University has suggested that these two Islands are the most dangerous places to live on. The most famous disaster in Indonesia was the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake which occurred on the coast of Sumatra. The mega-thrust was actually caused when the Indian plate hit the Burma plate which resulted in a series of Tsunamis which killed about 230,000 people in 14 different countries. Many drowned in coastal areas which experienced 100ft high waves. Indonesia was the most affected region in the disaster and the death toll was nearly 170,000. This was the third largest earthquake to ever been recorded. Due to this, Indonesia takes the 9th place in our list of the top earthquake prone countries.
8. Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is located along the Pacific Ocean and for this reason, it is quite prone to earthquakes. The economy of the country is booming rapidly, even though majority of the people live in the rural areas.
About 29 earthquakes have occurred in the country since 1988 and six of them occurred in 2011. Of these earthquakes, five were of particularly high magnitude One earthquake in the year 2002 had a magnitude of 7.6 and another in 2005 had a magnitude of 7.8. The rest of the powerful earthquakes occurred in the year 2000. There were a series of earthquakes in 2000 and two of them occurred on the same day with magnitudes of 7.8 and 8.0. However, the third earthquake occurred on the next day with a magnitude of 7.6. The latest earthquake in the region was recorded in July 2012 with a magnitude of 6.6. Papua New Guinea takes 8th place in our list of earthquake prone countries.
7. New Madrid
Most earthquakes occur at tectonic plates boundaries where land masses collide and push against each other. But New Madrid is a strange country; its earthquakes have defied common sense and have yet to be fully explained by scientists.
In 1811 and 1812, three massive earthquakes hit New Madrid with a magnitude over 8.0 on the Richter scale which shook buildings and caused massive property loss. The earthquake was felt over an area of 2 million square miles, which constitutes about two-third of the population. A lot of damage was caused during the earthquake, the ground fell and rose, trees were bent, cracks were formed and large landslides swept the hillside area. Although the damage from the quake was widespread, only a few people died. Many earthquakes of smaller magnitude have occurred since then. New Madrid takes 7th place in our list of earthquake countries.
Turkey lies in a seismic zone located between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. This geographical activity in this area indicates that an earthquake can occur here at any time and thus, makes it one of the most earthquake prone countrys in the world. Turkey has a long history of earthquakes which often occur as adjacent earthquakes.
An earthquake of magnitude 7.6 hit Western Turkey in 1999 and occurred on the world’s largest and longest fault lines; the east-west trending North Anatolian fault. The earthquake lasted only for 37 seconds but killed over 17,000 people. About 50,000 people were injured in the earthquake, making it one of the most devastating earthquakes of the 20th century. Turkey takes 6th place in our list of earthquake prone countries.
This country is comprised of a group of Islands spread among the Southern region of Pacific Ocean. It is a combination of about 176 islands and it is in the neighborhood of Hawaii and New Zealand.
About 215 different earthquakes occurred in the region during 2012, but none exceeded the 6.6 magnitude mark. The last shockingly large earthquake was felt in 2009 with a magnitude of 7.6. Two other earthquakes were felt in Tonga before this time - one in 2006 with a magnitude of 8.0 and the other in 2007 with magnitude of 7.9. Tonga takes 5th place in our list of the most earthquake prone countries.
Pakistan also deserves to be in this list of the most earthquake prone countries. The country is located in the Indus Suture region and is about 200 km north of the Himalayan Front. This region has the largest number of earthquakes in the Himalayan region, caused mainly by thrust faults.
A magnitude of 7.6 earthquake hit the Kashmir Region of Pakistan and killed about 73,000 people, mostly in the remote areas of the country. Recently an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude killed about 825 people, left thousands homeless and caused immense damage to the the country's property. Pakistan takes 4th place as one of the most earthquake prone country in our list.
3. El Salvador
El Salvador is also an earthquake prone country which has suffered immense damage due to past earthquakes. This small region has suffered about one destructive earthquake per decade for the last hundred years.
The two major earthquakes which occurred in the region were on January 13 and February 13, 2001, with magnitudes of 7.7 and 6.6 respectively. The two events occurred among different tectonic plates, however, neither of the two regions have a history of earthquakes. The earthquake caused damage to thousands of houses and caused hundreds of landslides in the region. Therefore, El Salvador takes 3rd place in our list of most earthquake prone countries.
According to some estimates, a person is more likely to die in Nepal than anywhere else in the world. Many disasters occur in Nepal. Different floods, fires and epidemics of all kinds cause loss of life and property throughout the year.
Nepal is one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world due to the presence of Himalayas in the region. These mountains are built on Indian tectonic plates which lie under Central Asia. The two slabs of the Earth converge at a rate of 4-5 cm each year. Numerous tremors are felt on Mount Everest and its surrounding regions throughout the year.
The remains of a prehistoric lake are present in the Kathmandu valley. This makes earthquakes even more severe. The solid ground changes into quicksand during severe earthquakes, swallowing everything above it. The 2015 Nepal earthquake killed more than 8,000 people and injured about 21,000. There is no doubt Nepal takes 2nd place in our list of most earthquake prone countries.
Japan takes the first place in our list of the top 9 most earthquake prone countries because it is surrounded by Pacific Ocean, East China Sea, Sea of Japan and sea of Okhotsk - surrounding Japan with active and potentially deadly fault lines. About 6,852 islands come under the vicinity of Japan. Mountains and forests are present in majority of the land; volcanoes are also a threat to civilization.
The first recorded earthquake in Japan was felt in 684 A.D. of magnitude 8.4, followed by two other hits in 745 A.D. and 869 A.D. of magnitudes 7.9 and 8.6. Unil now, the area has witnessed about 24 earthquakes of magnitudes 7.9 or greater and 42 earthquakes of magnitudes 6.3-7.8. The highest magnitude was felt in March 2011 reaching nearly 9.0 magnitude which claimed the lives of 15 thousand people. One of the most recent earthquakes was recorded in December 2012 with a magnitude of 7.3.
Now you know the top 9 most earthquake prone countries in the world. Multiple earthquakes have occurred in these countries. So if you reside in any of these countries, it is a good idea to be prepared and take necessary precautionary measures.
Governments of these countries should also facilitate earthquake defenses and preparation for their people. They should fund researcher studying natural disasters so the state can be ready with precautionary measures. They should also allocate more budget for these natural calamities because nobody knows who will be the next victim.