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Top 10 Worst Earthquakes of India

Updated on March 24, 2017
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Kannan loves to create articles comprising Top 10's/20's. He has a knack of preparing listicles that help readers and derive information.

It was 26th January 2001, the republic day of India. Students were going to school for republic day celebration, those who thought republic day as just another holiday were snoring. Leaders all over the country were hoisting the tricolor flag.

As an on-going tradition people were distributing sweets among children, some were seen holding flags, some busy attaching a small flag on their shirts. Some were chatting with their friends for planning and enjoying the rest of the day.

Suddenly, news struck that an earthquake has taken place in Gujarat.

As time passed by, news was that it is massive and tremendous loss of life and property is taken place. Reportedly 30,000 people died and numerous others got injured. This is the real story of the Gujarat earthquake.

Fifteen years down the line, situation has improved, but the scars remain.

There are more deadly earthquakes that India has witnessed. Here is the list of ten worst earthquakes that India has seen in its history.

Source

What are the most powerful earthquakes of India?

(click column header to sort results)
Sr. No.  
Place  
Deaths  
Date, Time, and Year  
Magnitude  
Epicenter  
1
Indian Ocean
> 283,106
08:50, December 26, 2004
9.1–9.3
West coast of Sumatra, Indonesia
2
Kashmir
130,000
08:50:38, October 8, 2005
7.6
Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir
3
Bihar and Nepal
> 30,000
14 :13, January 15, 1934
8.7
South of Mount Everest
4
Gujarat
20,000
08:50:00, January 26, 2001
7.7
Kutch, Gujarat
5
Kangra
> 20,000
06:10, April 4, 1905
7.8
Himalayas
6
Latur
> 9,748
22:25, September 30, 1993
6.4
Killari, Latur
7
Assam
1,526
19:39, August 15, 1950
8.6
Rima, Tibet
8
Assam
1,500
17 :11, June 12, 1897
8.1
Exact location not known
9
Uttarkashi
>1,000
Unknown time, October 20, 1991
6.8
Garhwal, Uttarakhand
10
Koynanagar
180
04:21, December 11, 1967
6.5
Koyna

1) Indian Ocean Earthquake, 2004

Date - December 26, 2004
Time - 08:50
Deaths - > 283,106 (Includes deaths in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, and Somalia)
Magnitude - 9.1–9.3
Epicenter - West coast of Sumatra, Indonesia (3.316°N 95.854°E)

Extreme widespread destruction took place on the following day of Christmas. The calamity was so huge that even islands in middle of the Indian Ocean disappeared or were in 3-5 meters deep in water.

The newspapers on the following day was full of gory pictures and mind-numbing loss of human lives with property worth thousands of crores destroyed.

One more thing I remember that newspapers were only reporting about the Tsunami. From the first page till the last page it was only and only about the Tsunami. No Sports, no business news for the following several days.

Chennai's Marina Beach, the world's second longest beach after the Tsunami
Chennai's Marina Beach, the world's second longest beach after the Tsunami | Source

Indian Ocean Tsunami: Aceh, Sumatra Islands After 10 Years

2) Kashmir Earthquake, 2005

Date - October 8, 2005
Time - 08:50:38
Deaths - 130,000
Magnitude - 7.6
Epicenter - Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir (34.45°N 73.65°E)

While the death toll in India was less, the Pakistani side suffered huge loss of life and property. The epicenter of the quake was in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. Its severity could be understood by the thought that even neighboring countries like China, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan felt tremors.

The International community came forward in every possible way to help the victims. Relief material flowed in from every part of the world. The Indian Army helped in a big way by clearing the debris and distributing relief material and maintaining medical camps in Pakistan as well as in India.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
U.S. Army Sergeant Kornelia Rachwal gives a young Pakistani girl a drink of waterScores of people standing in queue to get relief material after the earthquake
U.S. Army Sergeant Kornelia Rachwal gives a young Pakistani girl a drink of water
U.S. Army Sergeant Kornelia Rachwal gives a young Pakistani girl a drink of water | Source
Scores of people standing in queue to get relief material after the earthquake
Scores of people standing in queue to get relief material after the earthquake | Source

3) Bihar Earthquake, 1934

Date - January 15, 1934
Time - 14 :13
Deaths - > 30,000
Magnitude - 8.7
Epicenter - South of Mount Everest (27.55°N 87.09°E)

Just as the recent one that took place in Pokhara in which both Nepal and India are affected, like it was in 1934 though on a larger scale (8.7 magnitude) with widespread destruction.

As of recent reports the 2015 earthquake is of 7.9 magnitude with more than 1500 people dead in India and Nepal.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mahatma Gandhi on a visit to Bihar after the calamity.Heaps of rubble after the Bihar Earthquake in 1934
Mahatma Gandhi on a visit to Bihar after the calamity.
Mahatma Gandhi on a visit to Bihar after the calamity. | Source
Heaps of rubble after the Bihar Earthquake in 1934
Heaps of rubble after the Bihar Earthquake in 1934 | Source

2015 Earthquake of Bihar - Nepal

4) Gujarat Earthquake, 2001

Date - January 26, 2001
Time - 08:50:00
Deaths - 20,000
Magnitude - 7.7
Epicenter - Kutch, Gujarat (23.419°N 70.232°E)

The opening paragraph sums up the effects of the Gujarat Earthquake. Normalcy could only be restored after six months of rigorous relief efforts from all sections of society. Help poured in from all over the world but the damage had already been done.

Some losing their life savings, some their life.

A collapsed building after the earthquake in Gujarat
A collapsed building after the earthquake in Gujarat | Source

5) Kangra Earthquake, 1905

Date - April 4, 1905
Time - 06:10
Deaths - > 20,000
Magnitude - 7.8
Epicenter - Himalayas (33.0°N 76.0°E)

Another one of the deadliest quakes that India faced took place in the Kangra region of Himachal Pradesh. More than 100,000 homes were destroyed and scores of animals, trees, and the natural vegetation that the region had were completed gutted.

This is the 2nd worst earthquake from the pre-independence era after the Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1934.

A destroyed Barjeshwari Devi temple after  4th April 1905 earthquake in Kangra
A destroyed Barjeshwari Devi temple after 4th April 1905 earthquake in Kangra | Source

6) Latur Earthquake, 1993

Date - September 30, 1993
Time - 22:25
Deaths - > 9,748
Magnitude - 6.4
Epicenter - Killari, Latur (18.1°N 76.5°E)

One of the most fatal natural disaster that Maharashtra has ever faced. Though the magnitude recorded was 6.4 but the destruction that it caused was massive.

The most affected areas were of Latur and Osmanabad. Invariably, this natural calamity brought attention towards this area and now Latur and adjoining areas as well-developed.

Watch the below news snippet from BBC where the anchor describes the plight causing entire villages to be flattened as people were sleeping.

A destroyed village after the Latur earthquake
A destroyed village after the Latur earthquake | Source

7) Assam Earthquake, 1950

Date - August 15, 1950
Time - 19:39
Deaths - 1,526
Magnitude - 8.6
Epicenter - Rima, Tibet (28.5°N 96.5°E)

Another one which happened on a national day of India - on the Independence day. Many parts of Assam and Tibet were severely damaged to unknown proportions. However, Assam bear the most brunt of this quake than that of Tibet.

The after effects was a strong flooding situation which added to the already scary situation.

Rubble's galore after the earthquake.
Rubble's galore after the earthquake. | Source

8) Assam Earthquake, 1897

Date - June 12, 1897
Time - 17 :11
Deaths - 1,500
Magnitude - 8.1
Epicenter - Exact location not known (26°N 91°E)

The north-eastern states of India fall under the zone 4 hazard seismic area. Zone 5 being the highest risk area and Zone 2 being the lowest. States like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh from the north-east, Kashmir, and Gujarat all fall in the Zone 5 and are the most prone to earthquakes.

This earthquake affected India, Tibet, and Burma.

An aerial view of a destructed locality
An aerial view of a destructed locality | Source

9) Uttarkashi Earthquake, 1991

Date - October 20, 1991
Time - Unknown
Deaths - >1,000
Magnitude - 6.8
Epicenter - Garhwal, Uttarakhand (30.780°N 78.774°E)

Lakhs of people became homeless and nearly 42,000 homes and buildings were damaged. As much as 1300+ villages were destroyed. Many were injured and the official death toll stood at 768 but there were many more deaths than that.

The whole of Uttarkashi region was harshly affected which is now known as Uttarakhand.

A family sitting atop the debris where once their house used to be
A family sitting atop the debris where once their house used to be | Source

10) Koynanagar Earthquake, 1967

Date - December 11, 1967
Time - 04:21
Deaths -180
Magnitude - 6.5
Epicenter - Koyna (17.4°N 73.76°E)

Koynanagar is the most seismically active area in the country. Koynagar has had a long history of earthquakes. As much as 20 known earthquakes have taken place at Koynanagar. The latest one being on 14th April 2014. It lies in the Zone 4 of the hazard zoning.

Of all of them the most severe one took place in 1967 with areas affecting to the tune of 25 kilometers with casualties of 180 and 1500 injured.

Just one of the many roads after the earthquake in Koynanagar
Just one of the many roads after the earthquake in Koynanagar | Source

Earthquake zones of India

According to a recent study conducted by National Institute of Disaster Management about 59 percent of area in India is prone to earthquakes. India is divided into 4 seismic zones.

Zone 5 - Very High Risk Area - 11 % of land area in India is considered as high risk. List of states that fall in this zone are : Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Central Kashmir, Central Himalayas, Northern Bihar, Rann of Kutch, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Zone 4 - High Risk Zone - 18 % of land area - Some parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Koynanagar in Maharashtra, and the whole of Sikkim lie in this zone.

Zone 3 - Moderate Risk Zone - 30 % of land area - Some parts of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and the whole of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa, and Kerala fall in the risk zone.

Zone 2 - Low risk Zone - 41 % of land area - See below map to know areas covered in this zone.

Map showing different earthquake zones in India
Map showing different earthquake zones in India | Source

Which earthquake hazard zone level you live in ?

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    • profile image

      Mia 10 months ago

      Very good informative text but can be given a little more information

    • profile image

      hj 14 months ago

      Good

      and informative

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      Author

      Kannan Reddy 17 months ago from Mumbai

      @Khalid Thanks for the comment, sorry to hear about the situation that you were in.

      Be brave, healthy, and cheerful.

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      Khalid 17 months ago

      Kannan, your research is indeed thorough. After reading the full article, tears rolled down my eyes. Though the pain and suffering of the victims can not be shared or eradicated but as I have experienced the similar shocks after shocks during the Nepal Earthquake which affected many parts of Northern India. It's indeed terrible. Thank you for your blogs on interesting topics.

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      akanksha mangotra 2 years ago

      they should migrate up to the time of recoverment and we should give them food and shelter

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      nishi 2 years ago

      Good and giving nice information

    • profile image

      Lilly 4 years ago

      Good

      and informative but still better could be done

    • profile image

      Deep 5 years ago

      Informative

    • profile image

      indrajeetnarainsingh 5 years ago

      It was good but there should be high level theme basedon research orientation work.

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