31 December 2016 - 01:26 PM
Ecuador Tops the Charts in Year of Deadly Earthquakes
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2016 was filled with violent seismic events that flooded the headlines and claimed hundreds of lives across the globe.

Picture showing the destruction in Manta, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a powerful 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country.

Many of the worst earthquakes were felt along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a zone encompassing the coasts of Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The area is rife with active submarine volcanoes and produces approximately 90 percent of the world's earthquakes.

However, no country was struck as hard as Ecuador, which suffered hundreds of casualties and continues to reel from aftershocks that persistently rock its coastal cities and regions.

As the year draws to a close, we take a look at the five deadliest earthquakes of 2016.

1. Ecuador

On April 16 Ecuador was slammed by a 7.8 magnitude quake that claimed more than 670 lives and shattered buildings across the South American country's Pacific coastal region, adding to the small OPEC nation's economic difficulties owing to low oil prices.

The coastal province of Manabi was hit hardest by the quake, registering 646 fatalities, while parts of the neighboring province of Esmeraldas suffered loss of life, injury and significant damage to infrastructure.

The earthquake was the deadliest to strike Ecuador in over 70 years, yet an outpouring of international support — principally from Ecuador's neighbors, but also from countries such as Palestine, China, and Japan — helped mitigate the worst effects of the disaster. Rescue workers, both domestic and international, saved 113 people from the debris in the days following the earthquake that left about 676 people dead.The extent of the earthquake's devastation was partly blamed on poor construction methods and a lack of building code enforcement in the country.

“There are individuals who acted with the intention to save a few extra pennies, and by doing so constructed death traps that were approved by local authorities,” President Rafael Correa said back in April, shortly after the quake. 

The country has since experienced hundreds of aftershocks and an unusually high degree of seismic events. Most recently, a long stretch of Ecuador's northwestern Pacific coast was hit on Dec. 19 by an earthquake followed by 20 aftershocks that flattened homes and led to 3 fatalities.

2. Italy

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy on the morning of Aug. 24, just over 6 miles southeast of Norcia, causing 299 confirmed deaths and displacing more than 25,000 people whose homes were destroyed by the devastating quake.

"Half the town is gone," Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told RAI state television in the immediate aftermath of the quake. "There are people under the rubble... There's been a landslide and a bridge might collapse."

In subsequent months, the country was also slammed by multiple aftershocks that flattened historic buildings and landmarks. Indeed, the deadly nature of the quakes has in large measure been attributed to the ancient architecture that covers the Mediterranean country.

Like Ecuador, the country is no stranger to earthquakes: in 2009, an earthquake also hit central Italy, killing over 300 people.

3. Taiwan

Taiwan was hit hard in the early hours of Feb. 6, with most of the 117 fatalities resulting from the 6.4-magnitude quake coming from the 17-story Wei-guan Golden Dragon apartment complex that collapsed during the temblor. The building housed some 256 residents and hosted 96 apartments, and more people were in the building than usual due to the Chinese New Year Lunar holiday that began that week.

The earthquake also caused a further eight buildings to collapse and left several more tilted precariously across the ancient city in southern Taiwan.

Earthquakes frequently strike Taiwan yet most are minor and cause little damage. The island’s last big tremor was a 7.6 magnitude quake in 1999 that killed more than 2,300 people.

4. Indonesia

One hundred and four people were killed and hundreds more injured in Indonesia on Dec. 6 when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 80 miles southeast of Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake toppled hundreds of buildings and left thousands of people homeless. 

"All the victims were crushed in collapsed buildings," said Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman for the national disaster management agency.

Rescuers in Aceh's Pidie Jaya regency focused their search on a market complex, which suffered more damage than other parts of the town of 140,000.

The quake was the biggest disaster to hit the province since the 9.1-magnitude Dec. 26, 2004, quake and tsunami, which killed more than 120,000 people in Aceh. In all, the 2004 tsunami killed 226,000 people along Indian Ocean shorelines.

5. Japan

On April 15, a 7.0-magnitude quake struck southern Japan, leading to 41 deaths. The earthquake came on the heels of a 6.2-magnitude quake — later judged to be a foreshock to the 7.0-M quake — that hit the region the day before, killing 9 and injuring over 800 people. 

"I felt strong shaking at first, then I was thrown about like I was in a washing machine," said a Tokai University student.

Sitting directly along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," Japan has seen some of the worst seismic events in modern history. March 2011 witnessed a magnitude 9 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern shore that generated massive tsunami waves of up to 130-feet high, killing 16,000 people and causing tens of billions of dollars in damages.

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