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Great Earthquakes

Strong and damaging earthquakes have been felt in all parts of India and the rest of south Asia. The most seismically active areas are those in the Himalayan regions of the sub-continent and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to the peculiar regional tectonic setup. The peninsula area, was generally thought to be "seismically safe". But recent large quakes such as Koyna & Killari, have proven otherwise. Several damaging shocks have hit this region in historical and ancient times.

Notable Earthquakes: Listing only | Clickable map
Largest: South Asia | Worldwide | 2000 to Present day
 

Notice: Pages in this section (until 1999) are currently offline as they contain unpublished data and will be made available once they appear in print elsewhere. Any inconvenience is sincerely regretted.

Deadliest Earthquakes in South Asia
The M7.6 Kashmir-Kohistan earthquake in 2005 resulted in the greatest number of fatalities as a direct result of an earthquake in south Asia in recorded history. It supersedes the number of fatalities in South Asia from the M9.1 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake in 2004. The number of confirmed deaths in south Asian countries from the 2004 earthquake and tsunami were 41,886 with 11,340 people missing & presumed dead. The overall figure including Indonesia, Thailand & East Africa exceeded 2,50,000; the final number might never be known. These

Deadliest since 1900

Year

Place

Deaths

2004

Sumatra

1,80,000+

2005

Kashmir

~80,000

1935

Quetta

~35,000

1905

Kangra

~28,000

1934

Nepal-Bihar

15,772

are followed by the M7.8 Quetta earthquake in May 1935 in Balochistan and the M7.8 Kangra earthquake in  Himachal Pradesh in April 1905. In peninsula India, the highest number of reported casualties were from the M7.6 Bhuj earthquake in the state of Gujarat in western India with 13,805 fatalities in January 2001. All these earthquakes, except the M8.1 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, struck at night or in the early hours of the morning when most people were indoors in unsafe buildings. Apart from the 2004 earthquake, in the case of all others events fatalities occurred as a direct result of ground shaking. The highest mortality occurred in the 2004 earthquake on the island of Katchall in the Nicobar islands, where 86.7% of the population was confirmed either dead or missing. In Quetta with a population between 40,000 and 65,000, the 1935 earthquake killed nearly 26,000 people in the city alone.

Strongest Earthquakes in South Asia
The largest earthquake was recorded in the Andaman & Nicobar archipelago and adjoining Sumatra in 2004. It had a magnitude of 9.1 (Mw) and was the 3rd largest in the world since 1900. Tremors were felt over nearly all of peninsula India, as far as Ahmedabad. The ensuing tsunamis decimated entire coastal communities in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and

Strongest since 1900

Year

Place

Mw

2004

Sumatra

9.1

1950

Chayu-Arunachal

8.6

1934

Nepal-Bihar

8.1

1945

Off Makran Coast

8.0

1935

Quetta

7.8

Malaysia and caused damage and deaths in the Bangladesh, Kenya, Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, the Seychelles and Tanzania. The second largest was an earthquake in Arunachal Pradesh along the Indo-China border in 1950 also known as the Chayu-Medog earthquake in Chinese literature. It had a magnitude of 8.6 (Mw) and is the 8th largest earthquake in the world. Tremors from this earthquake were felt strongly in Kolkata, near 1,000 kilometres away. The 1945 Makran earthquake which rocked the coastal areas of the Balochistan and Sindh provinces in southern Pakistan including the city of Karachi, was felt as far as Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. This earthquake also generated a major tsunami in the Arabian Sea, which struck Mumbai leaving many dead. In the 1800's, the largest was the M8.2 Kumaon earthquake in the state of Uttaranchal in 1803 which damaged the Kutub Minar in Delhi and was felt as far as Kolkata. The greatest historical earthquake in South Asia occurred on 06 July 1505 and had a magnitude of M~8.2. This long forgotten earthquake is believed to have originated near the town of Lo Mustang along the Nepal-China border, the 1505 earthquake resulted in serious damage in Tibet and also in the Gangetic plains at Agra, Delhi, Dholpur and Gwalior. In the southern peninsula, the Kachchh earthquakes of 1819 and 2001 are the strongest with magnitudes crossing 7.0.

The truth about the infamous 1737 Calcutta Earthquake
Many historical earthquake catalogs for India list an earthquake in 1737. This event was thought to have occurred in the Kolkata area and was allegedly responsible for 3,00,000 fatalities making it one of the deadliest quakes worldwide. However, recent investigations clearly prove this claim to be false. The effects of a severe cyclone which undoubtedly caused damage and deaths in the Hoogly delta at the same time, are misinterpreted to have been an earthquake. Other significant evidence points to an exaggeration in the number of people who might have been killed by the cyclone, since the population of the area did not reach the hundred thousand figure until much later in the 1800's.

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