On May 22, 1960, a 9.5 magnitude earthquake struck the town of Valdivia, located in southern Chile, approximately 350 miles south of Santiago. Two tectonic plates shifted by over 30 meters, releasing large amounts of energy in seismic waves. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded and lasted for 10 minutes.
The earthquake destroyed entire cities and towns in only ten minutes. The quake also caused a tsunami that affected Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands. As well as it killed at least 130 people in Japan and more than 60 in Hawaii.
However, no one knows how many were killed between the tsunami and the earthquake. Scientists have estimated it is around 6,000 people. The damage cost has been estimated between 400 million to 800 million.
The earthquake also triggered landslides in the glacial valleys of the southern Andes. Luckily the area of the landslides is uninhabited, so there were few fatalities. Thirty-eight hours after the Valdivia earthquake, the Cordón Volcano erupted. Luckily due to an evacuation plan set in place, there were no injuries related to the volcanic eruption, but the eruption lasted several weeks.
Overall the earthquake left over two million people displaced, and over 40% of the houses in Valdivia were destroyed. In Valdivia alone, 20,000 were homeless. Chile is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world.