Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded In History

Tsunamis can kill thousands of people in one full swept.


Tsunamis are one of the most destructive natural disasters on the planet. With powerful waves of water that can go as high as 10-100 feet and travel as fast as 20-30 miles per hour, a tsunami can destroy everything in its wake. Whether its buildings, homes, neighborhoods, or villages, all of it will be destroyed once destructive tsunamis hit them.

The most destructive tsunamis are usually formed following another natural disaster such as strong earthquakes, underwater explosions, and volcanic eruptions. Tsunamis are caused by a seismic activity that occurs deep in the ocean.

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In this article, we’ll talk about the most destructive tsunamis ever recorded that claimed thousands of lives and billions in damage to infrastructure and properties.

2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded
Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded

This is the most destructive tsunami in human history. The tsunami claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people. Aside from that, it also accounted for more than $2.9 billion in damage to properties and infrastructure. The tsunami was a result of a 9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake on the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake was also the third largest earthquake to be ever recorded and was claimed to release energy that is equivalent to 23,000 atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the World War II. That massive amount of energy sent a series of a tsunami with 100-feet high waves that traveled across the Indian ocean. In total, eleven coastal countries were devastated by the set of tsunamis including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

1908 Messina Earthquake & Tsunami

Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded
Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake centered off the coast of Messina, Italy caused this deadly tsunami. Just a couple of minutes after the quake, 40-feet waves came hurling into the city of Messina and other nearby coastal towns. No one issues any alarms or cautions. With that, this left the people unprepared. As a result, 200,000 people lost their lives because of that natural disaster

1868 Arica Tsunami

Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded
Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded

An 8.5-magnitude earthquake centered on the southern coast of Arica caused the African tsunami.  After the quake, a series of 90-feet waves devastated Arica and turned it into rubble. The tsunami also struck two American ships on its way to Arica. The tsunami left Arica in severe conditions. It also wiped out the port, as well as destroyed a ton of buildings and homes, which resulted in 25,000 casualties. In total, the natural disaster has caused an estimated $300 million in damages and was responsible for 70,000 deaths in South America.

1755 Lisbon Earthquake & Tsunami

Most Destructive Tsunamis Ever Recorded

Coming in at number 2 on the list is the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami. There was also a megathrust earthquake that occurred in the center of the Atlantic Ocean before the tsunami took place. The resulting tsunami then caused massive destruction on the city of Lisbon and claimed the lives of 10,000 people. Witnesses that survived the natural disaster said that the tsunami was several feet high and swept away thousands of people and building into the sea.  Due to the powerful tsunami,  it also caused damage to a couple of coastal towns located in Spain and North Africa.

2011 Sendai Earthquake & Tsunami

Coastal areas like this are prone to tsunamis.

The 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami is one of the earliest tsunamis in history. There was a 9.0 megathrust earthquake before that, which was what triggered the tsunami. Just moments after the quake, 33-feet waves came crashing into entire Japan’s coast destroying billions of infrastructure and property. It even managed to activate two nuclear reactors. This prompted massive evacuations, particularly in the Fukushima Prefecture. Thousands went missing. Two thousand four hundred eleven people, on the other hand, lost their lives because of the tsunami.

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