Image: Bryn Evans, Gujarat earthquake. India, 2001. Courtesy of Massey Magazine.
The U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center reports that there are over 3.3 million earthquakes occurring annually throughout the world. Around 140 of them are magnitude 6.0 or greater on the Richter scale. There is no reliable predictor of when quakes will occur, and they occur over widely scattered areas of the world.
The 2004 Asian Tsunami was caused by a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake, when 30 kilometers below the seafloor a 1200-km stretch of the Indian tectonic plate was thrust up to 20 meters under the Burma plate, raising the seafloor by several meters. The energy released was equivalent to the explosion of 475,000 kilotons of TNT, or 23,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Waves up to 10 meters high crashed into the coastline of Sumatra near the epicenter. At least 226,000 were killed and over 500,000 injured, and one million people were left without the means to make a living.
It was followed less than three months later by another great quake measuring 8.7 in the same region. It was the first time in recorded seismic history—more than a century—that two quakes of such size have happened so close together.
The prophet Isaiah envisioned monster quakes in the last days, saying,
The foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is … shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut … in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
Isaiah 24:18–20; 30:25.