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As massive and deadly as Japan's recent magnitude 9.0 earthquake was, it's not the world's biggest recorded quake.
It is Japan's largest quake, but dating back to 1900, four other earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater have ruptured across the globe, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). We countdown the top 10 biggest recorded earthquakes in the world.
Assam-Tibet, 1950 - Magnitude 8.6Slide 2 of 21
Assam-Tibet, 1950 - Magnitude 8.6
At least 1,500 people were killed across eastern Tibet and Assam, India, when this temblor shook the region. Ground cracks, large landslides and sand volcanoes hit in the area. The quake was felt in the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China, and as far away as Calcutta, India.
The quake caused large landslides that blocked rivers. When the rivers finally burst through the walls of debris, waves inundated several villages and killed hundreds of people.
This quake is commonly called the Assam-Tibet earthquake or the Assam earthquake, even though the epicenter was in Tibet. The quake struck at the intersection of the most vigorous collision of continental plates on the planet, where the Indian continental plate smashes into the Eurasian plate and dives beneath it. The slow-motion crash helped create the massive Himalayas.Slide 3 of 21
Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, 2005 - Magnitude 8.6Slide 4 of 21
Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, 2005 - Magnitude 8.6
More than 1,000 people were killed, with hundreds more injured, mostly in Nias, in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake hit just months after an even bigger earthquake destroyed the region (see entry #3).
The quake ruptured below the surface of the Indian Ocean, where the Indo-Australian Plate is pushing under the Eurasian plate at the Sunda trench, similar to the 2004 quake.Slide 5 of 21
Rat Islands, Alaska, 1965 - Magnitude 8.7Slide 6 of 21
Rat Islands, Alaska, 1965 - Magnitude 8.7
Alaska had been a state for only 7 years when this huge earthquake triggered a tsunami of over 30 feet (10 meters). Despite its size, the quake caused little damage due to its remote location at the tip of the Aleutian Islands.
The tsunami was reported in Hawaii and spread as far away as Japan.
The temblor was the result of the Pacific Plate diving beneath the North American Plate at the Alaska-Aleutian megathrust, which has been the location of many megathrust earthquakes.
The quake cracked wood buildings and split an asphalt runway. Hairline cracks also formed in the runways at the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station.Slide 7 of 21
Off the Coast of Ecuador, 1906 - Magnitude 8.8Slide 8 of 21