The largest earthquake ever recorded is not a record one wants. But Chile had the largest earthquake ever record in 1960, with an unprecedented 9.5 strike. On May 22, 1960, the nation was devastated and 1,655 people lost their lives. But the country never faced another tragedy like that again, until 50 years later. Today, they did not experience the largest earthquake ever recorded, but the Chile earthquake 2010 still came far too close.
This morning, a 8.8 quake struck the center of the nation, with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the horrific Haiti tragedy. It was by far the worst one since 1960, and at this point, would tie for the fifth largest earthquake ever recorded.
Only the 1960 quake, the 1964 quake in Alaska, the 2004 Sumatra quake/tsunami, and the 1952 Kamchatka strike have been measured higher, according to the USGS. A 1906 quake off the coast of Ecuador also reached an 8.8 as well. In terms of those standings, the Chile earthquake 2010 is already historic.
After what happened in Haiti, the world may fear another grave death toll. Over 200,000 died in Haiti from a force that was much less than today’s incident. The 7.0 Haiti tremor was not among the largest earthquakes ever recorded, but it did approach the record for biggest death toll.
However, the Chile earthquake 2010 may not have as much death by comparison. Over 100 have already died, but the death toll will likely be in the thousands at worst, not the hundreds of thousands. That could always change, of course, but historical precedent signals that it might not.
Even in the largest earthquake ever recorded, only 1,655 people died in 1960. If there was that kind of comparatively small death toll from a 9.5 quake, an 8.8 likely wouldn’t have more. Of course, the fact that most Chile citizens could survive these severe quakes, while 200,000 Haitians couldn’t survive a 7.0, opens a lot of troublesome issues and truths.
But no matter how many are found dead, the Chile earthquake 2010 is still a horrific outcome. That it happened 2 ½ months before the 50’th anniversary of the 1960 quake adds extra subtext. Chile ultimately survived the largest earthquake ever recorded, so the country may be able to endure this too.
However, this is an entirely new generation that bears the brunt of recovery, and must rebuild much of the devastation. Yet those that survived the 1960 quake can give them advice and comfort, as Chile prepares to recover one more time.
USGS- “Largest Earthquakes in the World Since 1900”
Washington Post- “Chile earthquake: The next Big One?”
Hawaii 24/7- “Chile quake among Top 10 most powerful ever”