On the morning of September 7, a major earthquake occurred in Afganistan. Where in the world do earthquakes occur most often? List of countries and a checklist if you are in the midst of events
It is no secret that some countries are more prone to earthquakes than others. But which regions are those? In this article, we’ll list the countries where earthquakes are most likely to occur and tell you what to do if you find yourself in the midst of a destructive natural phenomenon.
An earthquake struck Afganistan on October 7, 2023, killing at least 2,000 people. According to the US Geological Survey, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake occured 40 km northwest of the city of Herat at 11 a.m. local time. This was followed by three powerful aftershocks with magnitudes 6.3, 5.5. and 5.9. In least 12 provinces of the Herat region, abouy 600 houses were destroyed or partially damaged.
On the night of September 9, an earthquake occurred in Morocco, which is already recognized as the largest in the history of the kingdom over the last century. Tremors with a magnitude of up to 7 were recorded throughout almost the entire kingdom, but the epicenter of the earthquake was in the El Haouz area, 80 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh. Tremors of varying strength were felt within a radius of 400 kilometers.
At least 2000 deaths have been reported so far from the earthquake.
Earthquakes are one of the most powerful and destructive forces on earth. They can cause tremendous damage to human settlements as well as tsunamis and landslides. On Monday, February 6, a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 45,000 people.
The fact is that Turkey is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. And there are quite a few such countries in the world. We have learned where and why earthquakes occur, which countries are on the list of the most earthquake-prone, and what to do if you find yourself in an area where an earthquake is already happening.
Where do earthquakes occur?
Numerous factors can cause earthquakes, including plate tectonics, magma movement in volcanoes, temperature changes, and strong winds.
No part of the world is immune to earthquakes, but earthquakes are more likely to occur in these three earth zones:
- The Circum-Pacific Belt, also called the Ring of Fire. It is located along the edge of the Pacific Ocean, where about 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur. Earthquakes in these areas are caused by sliding between tectonic plates and rupturing within them.
- Alpine belt of seismicity. Stretching from Java to Sumatra, it passes through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic.
- The Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The ridge marks where two tectonic plates diverge. Most of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is deep underwater. However, there is, for example, Iceland, which is directly above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and earthquakes are not uncommon there.
A map of the Ring of Fire
10 most earthquake prone countries in the world
Japan, located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, tops the list of the world's most seismically active countries, with an average of more than 1,500 earthquakes of magnitude 4 and above occurring in the country annually. Therefore, the Japanese seismic network is the densest in the world.
The Great East Japan Earthquake, also known as the Tohoku Earthquake, occurred on March 11, 2011, with a magnitude of 9.0. It caused a devastating tsunami that caused massive destruction and led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Because of its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan also experiences frequent .
Almost every year, Indonesia experiences earthquakes greater than 6.0 magnitude.
The great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on December 26, 2004, caused one of the deadliest tsunamis in history. The widespread devastation in the Indian Ocean killed about 230,000 people in several countries, but Indonesia was the hardest hit.
In 2018, the country had nine earthquakes greater than 6.0, which killed thousands of people.
Indonesia uses an earthquake early warning system called InaTEWS. This system uses a network of seismometers and buoys to detect earthquakes and monitor tsunamis.
China is one of those countries where earthquakes are the most destructive. One example is the magnitude 7.9 earthquake that struck Sichuan Province in 2008. As a result of this tragedy, more than 87,000 people were killed or went missing.
China has imposed strict seismic design standards to make structures more earthquake-resistant. A famous example is the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing, designed to withstand strong earthquakes.
The Philippines is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Because of the mountainous terrain, earthquakes can also cause deadly landslides. Because of these frequent natural disasters, many people living in this country build strong structures.
Iran is located along several tectonic plate boundaries and fault lines. One of the strongest earthquakes in Iran occurred in Gilan Province. This earthquake in 1990 killed more than 40,000 people.
Turkey often suffers from seismic activity because of its location near several major fault lines. The country is sandwiched between the Eurasian Plate, the African Plate, and the Arabian Plate, which causes constant tremors of some degree.
Peru is in the center of the Ring of Fire and regularly experiences small tremors as well as moderate to strong earthquakes. In order to prevent deaths from such natural disasters, the country conducts nationwide earthquake drills.
Although not located in a seismically active region, the United States has a unique geological landscape that makes it susceptible to earthquakes. The large population also contributes to the high risk of earthquakes in the United States. As a result, even relatively small earthquakes can cause significant damage due to the large number of people affected.
Italy is prone to seismic activity because of its location on several fault lines. The landscape of steep mountain ranges, inactive volcanoes, and coastal plains also plays a role. One of the most destructive earthquakes in Italy occurred in Messina in 1908 — more than 75,000 people died then.
Like many countries along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Mexico is vulnerable to regular seismic activity. Mexico City is especially vulnerable to earthquakes because of its geology, as the city is built on the bottom of an ancient lake. Because of this, the country has strict building codes and emergency procedures.
The strongest earthquake (with a magnitude of 8.1) ever recorded in Mexico occurred on September 19, 1985. It caused massive destruction in the country and resulted in thousands of deaths.
Seismic activity is common in New Zealand, as it sits on the boundary between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. A number of earthquakes take place in the country , but most go unnoticed since they are minor. There are, however, times when New Zealand experiences significant earthquakes that cause damage and impact communities. The Christchurch earthquake, which struck on February 22, 2011, was one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history. A magnitude 6.3 earthquake caused significant damage to buildings and infrastructure as well as significant loss of life.
New Zealand has a well-developed system for monitoring earthquakes and responding to seismic events. The GeoNet project, operated by the government agency , monitors seismic activity throughout the country. They provide real-time earthquake information, including the location, magnitude, and depth of earthquakes.
Global earthquake risk map
You can explore the earthquake risk map in more detail .
The least earthquake prone areas
Of all the continents, Antarctica has the least number of earthquakes. However, it is important to remember that small earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world.
An earthquake is already happening. What to do?
It sounds strange, but the most important thing at this moment is not to panic. With a cool mind, it will be much easier to understand the situation and take the necessary steps.
When you are at home, stay away from windows and all kinds of unstable structures. Until the tremors subside, you must be in a safe space. To do this, you need to create such a space: squat under a stable table or surround yourself with stable pieces of furniture. Wrap your hands around your head and cover it with a cushion, a book, or something similar.
During the shocks, do not run upstairs, go on the balcony, use the elevator, try to get out through windows or the balcony, use matches, or touch the buttons of plugged-in electrical appliances.
After the tremors: turn off the electricity in the house, shut off the water and gas, and turn off the stove and heaters. Gather the necessary documents and «emergency go bag» and proceed to the emergency assembly point (usually indicated in front of the entrance to the entrance hall).
Once outside, stay away from any buildings, trees, or power lines; find a safe, open area, and squat down.
When in a car, pull off to the side of the road away from poles and other structures, turn off the engine, and turn on the hazard warning light. Stay in the car until the tremors stop.
What you should have in your «emergency kit» if you find yourself at the site of an earthquake:
- A four-day supply of drinking water and food;
- a flashlight;
- a whistle;
- a respirator or mask;
- goggles and gloves;
- personal hygiene items;
- first aid kit;
- documents in a sealed bag;
- knife 3/5 in one;
- for children — formula with food, diapers, and a pacifier; for animals — dry food.
There is also an app that notifies you of strong tremors in your area. You can install it via this .