One of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history occurred on 23 January 1556 in theShaanxi province, China, killing more than 830,000 people (see 1556 Shaanxi earthquake). Most of the population in the area at the time lived in yaodongs, artificial caves in loess cliffs, many of which collapsed during the catastrophe with great loss of life. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake, with a death toll estimated to be between 240,000 to 655,000, is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll.]
The 1960 Chilean Earthquake is the largest earthquake that has been measured on a seismograph, reaching 9.5 magnitude on 22 May 1960. Its epicenter was near Cañete, Chile. The energy released was approximately twice that of the next most powerful earthquake, the Good Friday Earthquake, which was centered in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The ten largest recorded earthquakes have all been megathrust earthquakes; however, of these ten, only the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake is simultaneously one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.
Earthquakes that caused the greatest loss of life, while powerful, were deadly because of their proximity to either heavily populated areas or the ocean, where earthquakes often create tsunamis that can devastate communities thousands of kilometers away. Regions most at risk for great loss of life include those where earthquakes are relatively rare but powerful, and poor regions with lax, unenforced, or nonexistent seismic building codes