Major Indian Earthquakes of the 20th Century

India has a long history of devastating earthquakes, primarily because the country continues to drive into Asia at a rate of approximately 47mm/year.1 India is currently divided into four seismic zones, but statistics show that almost 60% of the country is vulnerable to moderate to strong earthquake shaking.

The 1993 Killari earthquake that killed close to 10,000 occurred in an area considered to be a non-seismic zone. Since 1988, there have been five moderate earthquakes (ranging from 6-6.4M)2 and the destructive Gujarat earthquake of 2001, which killed more than 20,000 people.

Table of Contents

Indian Earthquakes Since 1900 With 1,000 or More Deaths
Date: 4 April 1905 City: Kangra Deaths: 19,000 Magnitude: 7.5
Damage in the Kangra area and at Dehra Dun.
Date: 15 Jan 1934 City: Bihar Deaths: 10,700 Magnitude: 8.1
Extreme damage (X) in the Sitamarhi-Madhubani, India area, where most buildings tilted or sank up to 1 m (3 ft) into the thick alluvium. Sand covered the sunken floors up to 1 m deep. This liquefaction damage extended eastward through Supaul to Purnia, India. In the Muzaffarpur-Darbhanga area south of the zone of liquefaction most buildings were shaken apart by "typical" severe earthquake damage. Two other areas of extreme damage (X) from shaking occurred in the Munger (Monghyr) area along the Ganges River, India and in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Large fissures occurred in the alluvial areas.
Date: 20 August 1988 Nepal–Indian border Deaths: 1,000 Magnitude: 6.8
Seven hundred twenty-one people killed, 6,553 injured and 64,470 buildings damaged in eastern Nepal, including the Kathmandu Valley. Maximum intensity VIII. Liquefaction observed in a 5,500 sq. km area of southern Nepal. At least 277 people killed, thousands injured and extensive damage in northern Bihar, India, particularly in the Darbhanga-Madhubani-Saharsa area. Damage in the Gangtok area, Sikkim and in the Darjiling area, India. Felt in large parts of northern India from Delhi to the Burma border and in much of Bangladesh.
Date: 19 October 1991 Northern India Deaths: 2,000 Magnitude: 7.0
Two events about 1.6 seconds apart. At least 2,000 people killed, more than 1,800 injured and 18,000 buildings destroyed in the Chamoli-Uttarkashi area. Some damage occurred at Chandigarh and New Delhi. Felt in northern India, western Nepal and northeastern Pakistan. Landslides occurred in the epicentral area. A 30-meter deep crack was noted in the Uttarkashi area.
Date: 29 September 1993 City: Latur–Killari Deaths: 9,748 Magnitude: 6.2
This earthquake was centered about 70 kilometers northeast of Shoapur and 230 kilometers west-northwest of Hyderabad, in a region where earthquakes are infrequent. At least 9,748 people were killed, about 30,000 were injured and extreme devastation in the Latur-Osmanabad area. Nearly all buildings were destroyed in the village of Khillari. Felt in large parts of central and southern India, including Bangalore, Bombay, Hyderabad and Madras. This earthquake was the largest known earthquake to occur in the area. Many aftershocks, some large enough to cause additional damage and deaths, followed the mainshock.
26 January 2001 City: Gujarat Deaths: 20,085 Magnitude: 7.6
At least 20,085 people killed, 166,836 injured, approximately 339,000 buildings destroyed and 783,000 damaged in the Bhuj-Ahmadabad-Rajkot area and other parts of Gujarat. Many bridges and roads damaged in Gujarat. At least 18 people killed and some injured in southern Pakistan. Felt throughout northern India and much of Pakistan. Also felt in Bangladesh and western Nepal. The earthquake occurred along an approximately east-west trending thrust fault at shallow depth. The stress that caused this earthquake is due to the Indian plate pushing northward into the Eurasian plate. Complex earthquake. A small event is followed by a larger one about 2 seconds later.
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