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Valdivia: The World's Most Severe Earthquake on Record



The largest earthquake ever recorded happened on May 22nd, 1960 near Valdivia, Chile. The earthquake measured an incredible 9.5 on the Richter scale, making it the largest ever recorded. It was a tectonic earthquake, which means it originated from within Earth’s crustal plates.


This earthquake caused immense destruction and loss of life throughout the region. It was felt as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina and was reported to have caused a tsunami in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines. In Chile, coastal towns were destroyed and landslides caused by the shaking ground further added to the destruction.


The reason this earthquake was so powerful and destructive was a combination of factors. First, the location of the earthquake was near the boundary of the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. This area is known as a subduction zone, which means that one plate is sliding beneath the other. Such areas are more prone to powerful earthquakes than other locations.


Second, the area of Chile where the earthquake occurred was geologically unstable. The region has a history of significant seismic activity, and the area is made up of soft rocks that are more easily displaced by seismic waves. This contributed to the ground shaking more violently than it would have in a more stable region.


Finally, the buildings and structures in the area were not constructed with earthquakes in mind. Many were built with soft brick and mortar, making them more susceptible to collapse during an earthquake.


The 1960 Valdivia earthquake was a devastating event that resulted in thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in property damage. While it was a powerful earthquake, the destruction it caused was compounded by the region’s geology and the lack of earthquake-resistant structures.


Is your property ready for the next earthquake in the Seattle area? Find out today with a free seismic retrofit assessment.


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