Top 10: Deadliest Tsunamis in History

The concern for the human race increases day by day as man and nature conflicts. We develop all sorts of medicines and protections so that we could have a longer and prosperous life. We think we have got everything under control but when nature decides to strike, we are just as helpless as any other creature. Natural disasters and hazards are things we all are familiar with, be it earthquakes, landslides, blizzards or cyclones. But one of the deadliest and dangerous acts of nature that eradicates all forms of life in its path is a tsunami.

First we need to understand what exactly tsunami is. Tsunami can be generated by the huge and significant displacement of sea or ocean water, most commonly created by the movement of the tectonic plates under the ocean floor, during earthquakes. From Japanese, the term tsu means harbor, and nami means wave. Tsunami is not an uncommon occurrence. It has been very prominent throughout the history, with Japan being one of its worst victims.

Here is the list of 10 deadliest and most destructive tsunamis that the world has seen, faced and endured.

1. Sumatra, Indonesia – 26 December 2004


On the next day of Christmas whole world was tired of being merry and opening their gifts which Santa gave them, little did they know that nature had something else in store. A tsunami was caused by an earthquake of a drastic reading of 9.1 in Richter scale, off the shore of Sumatra at a depth of about 30km. The fault zone was recorded of around 1300 km long, with vertically displacing the water several meters along the length, as high as 50 meters, reaching 5km inland near Meubolah, Sumatra. It was recorded as the most dangerous tsunami of history, with damages of about US $10 billion and killing about 230,000 people.

2. Lisbon, Portugal – 1 November 1755

An earthquake of 8.5 magnitude caused a series of three huge waves, up to 30 meters high in some places, strike along the west coast of Portugal and southern Spain. Also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, it almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas. Tsunami affected waves as far away as Carlisle Bay, Barbados where it was said that the waves rose by 1.5 meters. The earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed 60,000 in the Portugal, Morocco and Spain.

3. Krakatau, Indonesia – 27 August 1883

This tsunami is said to be created and linked to the explosion of the Karaketu caldera volcano. Multiple waves, which reached a height of 37 meter, were initiated and propagated by the violent eruption and resulted in destruction of towns of Anjer and Merak. The sea was reported to recede from the shore at Bombay, India and is said to have killed one person in Sri Lanka. It resulted in loss of over 40,000 deaths of people in the affected areas, but about 2,000 deaths can be attributed directly to the volcanic eruptions.

4. Enshunada Sea, Japan – 20 September 1498

A large tsunami as triggered by an earthquake of 8.3 magnitude, that occurred off the coast of Nankaidõ, Japan. Tsunami waves have been described along the coasts of Kii, Mikawa, Surugu, Izu and Sagami. The power of these waves was so much that the lake Hamana became a brackish lake due to the breakdown of shoal between the lake and the Pacific Ocean.
There were reports of floods destroyed home and cities killing over 31,000 people through out the region.

5. Nankaido, Japan – 28 October 1707

Sea waves along the Pacific coasts of Kyushyu, Shikoku and Honshin rose to up as high as 25 meters and hammered the cities. This waves were created by an earthquake of magnitude of 8.4. A near total of 30,000 buildings was destroyed in the region and a total loss of life that was recorded was around 30,000.

6. Sanriku, Japan – 15 June 1896

This tsunami was generated due to the earthquake an estimated magnitude of 7.6, off the coast of Sanriku, Japan. As reported from Shirahama, tsunami reached the height of 38.2 meters. It damaged more than 11,000 homes and killed some 22,000 people. There were reports of tsunami hitting China and killing over 4,000 people and destroying local crops.

7. Northern Chile – 13 August 1868

This tsunami was caused by a series of two significant earthquakes of estimated magnitude of 8.5, off the coast of Arica, Peru (now Chile). The waves so created affected the entire Pacific Rim and were reported to be as high as 21 meters lasting from two to three days. A total of 25,000 deaths and an estimated US$300 million loss were caused by this combined tsunami and earthquakes along the Peru-Chile coast.

8. North Pacific Coast, Japan – 11 March 2011


A huge undersea megathrust earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded to have hit Japan, with a magnitude of 9 off the coast of Japan occurred on 11 March 2011. It triggered a powerful and disastrous tsunami waves, traveling at an enormous speed of 800 km per hour and with 10-meter high waves it completely swept and washed off east cost of off the coast of Japan. Approximately, over 452,000 people were relocated and still remain so. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and estimated damage was some where around $ 235 billion as per the World Bank. On 10 February 2014, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,885 deaths, 6,148 injured, and 2,623 people missing.

9. Ryuku Islands, Japan – 24 April 1771

An earthquake of magnitude 7.4 is said to be responsible for causing this dangerous and devastating tsunami. This tsunami damaged large number of islands in this region but the main damage was restricted to Ishigaki and Miyako Islands. Due to the confusion of the Japanese measurement system, it was said that the waves that struck was around 85.4 meters but actually the estimation is that it was somewhere between 11 to 12 meters. According to records, 8,439 people died on Ishigaki Island and 2,548 on Miyako Island, and more than 2,000 houses were destroyed on Ishigaki and Miyakojima.

10. Ise Bay, Japan – 18 January 1586

The best estimate of earthquake which caused this tsunami would be its magnitude 8.2 on Richter scale. Waves rose till 8 meters and damaged a number of towns. Deaths that were reported were of around 8,000 human lives.


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