15 Of The Most Devastating Tsunamis In History

We all get annoyed when the weather isn't the way we want it to be. In the winter months, we hate to shiver in the cold. On the other hand, the summer months can make anyone start to get a little moody. However, if you think the weather we deal with is bad, you've not seen anything yet. In this list, we are going to be talking about the most devastating tsunamis that have occurred throughout the history of time. What isn't as well-known about this extreme weather condition is that tsunamis don't always start a storm. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can completely ravage a land, only for a tsunami to follow. A tsunami can also be known as an underwater earthquake.

In this list, you will read about the most devastating tsunamis ever recorded in history. We will be traveling all throughout time for this list so get ready to learn a thing or two, hopefully! After reading this list, you'll think twice before groaning at the next weekly weather report. Mother Nature is not a woman that you want to mess with. The entries on this list that you are about to read are terrifying. These historic events are truly a reminder that deadly weather can happen anywhere and at any time. For anyone thinking that 2016 was totally the worst year ever, it might not seem so bad as you keep reading! Can you weather the storm and make it to the number one entry on this list?


15 1868 Hawaii Tsunami

What makes this earthquake and the tsunami that followed so devastating isn't the death or damage toll, it's how long the aftershocks of this earthquake have lasted. On April 2nd, 1868 there was an earthquake that occurred near the southern coast of Hawaii. After the initial impact of the earthquake, a landslide and tsunami would all hit this small series of islands.

What is truly shocking about this storm is that the aftershocks are still being felt. Yes, over 140 years after this earthquake wrecked miles of homes, the aftershocks of this storm haven't stopped. Hawaii isn't exactly living in fear that this storm will happen again but it's food for thought. I would certainly be freaked out if I knew that I was living where aftershocks were still going from a storm that happened in the 1860's!

14 1923 Tsunami From Great Kanto Earthquake

On September 1st, 1923, an earthquake rocked the Kanto Plain in Japan. This list is all about tsunamis but I had to mention this storm for the sheer irony of its devastation. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake happened during a time when most of the Japanese people were getting their lunch. The time of day that this earthquake happened heavily attributed to the large death and damage toll.

Since there was so much cooking going on, the earthquake caused fires to sweep over much of the affected area. Many died from the fires the spread over the land. The irony in this event is that only after massive fires had burned buildings, land and people did the tsunami arrive. Waves of up to 33 feet crashed into the Izu Islands only minutes after the fires had started. The waves were reported to have killed about 150 people.

13 1908 Messina Tsunami

On December 28th, in 1908, the Messina earthquake was about to set a path of destruction that Italy would not soon forget. Entire cities were destroyed and it was estimated that between 75,000 and 200,000 total deaths had occurred. However, this estimate comes from deaths from the entire set of storms. However, the tsunami that engulfed the nearby coasts was about to cause its own damage.

Hitting about ten minutes after the initial earthquake, three separate tsunami waves hit the coast in succession. Homes were destroyed, cities were in ruin, and it is estimated that 2,000 people died from just the tsunamis. In the wake of these rapid waves of tsunamis, there was destruction all throughout the towns of Messina and Malta, Italy. The tsunami that struck the town of Malta would arrive two hours after the initial tsunamis hit Messina.

12 1783 Calabria Tsunami

Southern Italy was hit by, shockingly, a series of five earthquakes in 1783. The first 7.0 magnitude earthquake violently shook Sicily, Italy, killing nearly 25,000 people. The first tsunami would soon hit and would destroy nearby Messina. Notice how poor Messina has appeared twice on this list and we haven't even hit the top ten?

On the second day of this earthquake marathon, a second tsunami would hit Scillia, killing nearly 1,500 people. It is said that severe flooding attributed to a large majority of the deaths with floods stretching nearly 200 miles. After the first two days, the tsunamis stopped but the earthquakes were only beginning. Additional cities would end up partially damaged, if not completely destroyed.

11 1586 Ise Bay Tsunami

On the 18th of January in 1586, Ise Bay, Japan was hit by a tsunami that would leave thousands dead. The product of a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, the first tsunami brought extremely high waves with it. Measuring a height of almost 20 feet, the tsunami crashed into towns, leaving wide areas of destruction.

Furthermore, damage caused by fires spreading due to the earthquake would result in half of Nagahana, Japan burning to the ground. Unfortunately, there was also a town by Lake Biwa that would be mostly underwater, thanks to the tsunami flooding the lake. This certainly won't be the only time we see Japan on this list. Sadly, this tsunami is tame when compared to the other entries on this list.

10 Great Yaeyama Tsunami

Due to the Yaeyama Great Earthquake that hit the Ishigaki Island (near what we know now as Okinawa), the Great Yaetama Tsunami would soon arrive in Japan. The death toll for the tsunami was truly astounding, killing about 13,500 people! Over 2,000 homes were destroyed by this tsunami. The water that had invaded the Ishigaki Island didn't just destroy buildings, the rising water levels killed many plants in the area.

There was widespread damage to the entire agricultural environment of this affected area. The aftermath of the Great Yaeyama Tsunami was so severe that the population was reduced to 1/3 of what it was prior to the earthquake. Imagine a tsunami hitting the United States that wiped out a third of our population!

9 2011 Tsunami Hits The Coast of Japan

On March 11th, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake was beginning near the coast of Japan. The tsunami waves associated with this earthquake would reach heights of about 133 feet and moved about 6 miles inland. The aftermath of this tsunami was extremely devastating. Over 220,000 residents were forced to live elsewhere, most going to temporary housing.

There were close to 16,000 deaths that occurred due to this tsunami. In addition, this underwater earthquake would go on to leave about 6,000 residents injured and a little over 2,000 people were reported missing. Overall, it was estimated that nearly 750,000 buildings in total were damaged, some suffered minor damage while others were completely demolished. The estimated damage toll was around $235 billion!


8 Mount Unzen Tsunami

As can happen, there are times when eruptions can result in devastating tsunamis. Mount Unzen is the given name of a group of active volcanoes that overlap, fantastic! Unsurprisingly, this volcano has erupted a few times. As a matter of fact, an eruption in 1991 sent volcanic matter and gas through the air that resulted in 43 people dying. However, the previously mentioned incident was nothing compared to what happened in 1792.

In 1792, the eastern part of the Mayu-yama dome had been crushed due to flowing lava rushing at the structure. Soon, a landslide had formed from the mixture of lava and debris from the previously crushed dome. A 330 feet wave, known as a megatsunami, would form from the landslide killing about 15,000 people. The Mount Unzen eruption remains one of the worst volcanic eruptions in Japan's history.

7 1896 Sanriku Tsunami

The lesson to be learned from the resulting tsunami brought from the 1896 Sanriku earthquake is to always be prepared. On June 15th, 1896, residents were gathered along the coast of Sanriku, Japan. An earlier earthquake had hit this very area, mere hours ago, but residents had assumed the cause for concern was over.

What would follow would be two separate tsunami waves that no one saw coming. Killing over 20,000 Japanese residents and destroying around 9,000 properties, this would be one of the most devastating tsunamis in Japanese history. This earthquake and the tsunamis that followed would lead to Japan creating a better defense system in the event of future tsunami attacks.

6 1707 Hoei Tsunami

On October 28th, 1707 a set of events were to happen in Japan that seemed to have resulted from a single earthquake. About 29,000 homes were destroyed in the wake of this massive storm. Over 5,000 deaths were reported to have taken place during this combination of earthquake, tsunami, and landslide that occurred right after one another. The resulting landslide was one of the largest to ever happen in this history of Japan.

There is even speculation that the earthquake caused the final eruption of Mount Fuji! This volcano would erupt on December 16th, less than two months after the initial earthquake, talk about an unfortunate series of events! It isn't proven that the Hoei earthquake definitively caused Mount Fuji to erupt but the timeframe makes you wonder.

5 1498 Nankai Tsunami

In September of 1498, an 8.6 magnitude earthquake happened just off the coast of Nankaido, Japan. In addition to the damage caused by this earthquake, there was a tsunami waiting around the corner. This tsunami was so powerful that it even swept away a building where the Great Buddha statue was located!

The death toll associated with this earthquake and its associating tsunami were responsible for a large number of deaths. Official numbers range from 26,000 to 31,000 reported deaths. The large death toll makes this tsunami one of the most devastating when considering the number of lives that were lost on this day.

4 365 Crete Earthquake

We're going to go way back in time for this next tsunami, all the way back to 365 AD! In the area surrounding Crete, a massive earthquake hit this area and a tsunami soon followed. While the earthquake was ravaging areas from Egypt to Spain, a tsunami was heading for the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean. The damage from this resulting storm would kill thousands of people.

Shockingly, the force of this tsunami was so strong that it even hurled ships at a distance of about 2 miles. Imagine a force so strong that it was capable of knocking entire ships over 10,000 feet! The earthquake and tsunami combination that occurred around Crete didn't just “hit” this town, it annihilated it. Also, massive areas of Spain and Egypt were damaged by this massively outreaching earthquake.

3 1183 Tsunamis Resulting from Eruption of Krakatoa

The eruption of the Krakatoa led to a chain of events that would cause destruction rarely seen in any historical period. Starting on August 25th, 1883 the Krakatoa, near modern day Indonesia, started to erupt, sending ash and pumice all across the land. Two days later, residents heard four separate explosions of the Krakatoa, one of which triggered a tsunami. These tsunamis, started by the Krakatoa's eruption were hitting ships in South Africa!

Waves reaching heights of 151 feet completely destroyed the town of Merak, Bentan. Especially disturbing is that the surrounding seas were reported to have bodies floating around in them for months after the initial eruption. The final death toll would be estimated to be around 40,000 people killed from the eruption and the following weather phenomena that occurred. The effects of this storm actually left the sky in a darker state for years. Yes, this event was so catastrophic it changed the color of the sky for years, that's tough to beat.

2 1755 Lisbon Tsunami

Occurring only 40 minutes after an earthquake, a tsunami rushed over Lisbon that would have much of this city underwater in a matter of minutes. Those who were fortunate enough to not be in the path of this tsunami didn't fare much better. In towns unaffected by the tsunami, they got to enjoy fires that spread for about five days in a row. After the initial tsunami, many more tsunamis started hitting nearby locations.

A tsunami measuring ten feet hit the coasts of England, with Ireland, North Africa, and Barbados also being hit by huge waves! One reason tsunamis are particularly scary is that they are hard to plan for and it's tough to know when they are going to arrive. The death toll for this entire event, including the earthquake, tsunamis, and fires would result in an estimated 100,000 deaths. The next tsunami on this list is the most devastating of all-time and was an event that no one was prepared to see.

1 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

This tragic incident that occurred in 2004 is the reason why most of us know what a tsunami is. The single worst recorded tsunami in the history of time would go on to kill an estimated 230,000 people. This tsunami also forced nearly 1.7 million people to move from where they lived. There wasn't just one country affected by this tsunami, entire countries were caught in the massive tsunami waves.

India, Thailand, Somalia, Malaysia, and Indonesia were just a few of the countries devastated by the worst tsunami ever recorded. The force of the tsunami waves was said to be equal to that of five megatons of TNT. The tragedy spawned worldwide outreach as countries from around the world donated a total of an estimated $14 billion in relief aid. It's good to know in the wake of great tragedy we can all occasionally come together to help each other.

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