An earthquake is a violent shaking of the ground that often causes destruction to life and property. An earthquake occurs when two parts of earth slip past one another, creating seismic waves. Some areas are especially prone to earthquakes due to prominent fault lines in those places.
Seismologists give earthquakes different magnitude rankings depending on their severity. A magnitude three earthquake is fairly unnoticeable and not likely to be felt. On the other hand, a magnitude six earthquake is likely to cause quite a bit of damage. As of 2014, the most powerful earthquake ever measured occurred in Chile in 1960 when a 9.5 magnitude earthquake struck the city of Valdivia.
The damage caused by earthquakes can be exacerbated when they occur in areas close to water. In March 2011, an earthquake in Japan measured at 9.0 on the Richter scale and caused the deaths of more than 15,000 people. Because the earthquake's epicenter was just offshore, it created tsunamis that made the damage even greater than it would have otherwise been.
Those who construct homes and buildings in areas that have prominent fault lines can decrease the risk of earthquake damage by following proper building codes. Even older buildings can receive seismic retrofits that help protect them.