The most powerful earthquake ever recorded happened in 1960 when a 9.5 magnitude tremor shook Chile, destroying buildings, creating a series of tsunamis, and killing as many as 6,000 people.
On May 22, 1960, the most powerful earthquake in recorded history—magnitude 9.5—struck southern Chile. The rupture zone stretched from estimates ranging from 500 kilometers (311 miles) to almost 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) along the country’s coast. The event was named after the city most affected by the quake, Valdivia.
The Valdivia earthquake left two million people homeless, injured at least 3,000, and killed approximately 1,655. The economic damage totaled $550 million (more than $4.8 billion, adjusted for 2020 inflation).
The Valdivia earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that raced across the Pacific. Waves wracked coastal communities as far away as New Zealand, Japan, and the Philippines. In Hawai'i, the tsunami devastated the coastal town of Hilo, killing 61 people.