Afghanistan earthquake 2015: Which country has the most earthquakes? And is the UK at risk?

 
Sarah Spickernell
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Today's earthquake in Afghanistan had a magnitude of 7.5
Today's earthquake in Afghanistan had a magnitude of 7.5 (Source: Getty)

Today, the world was struck by yet another major earthquake. This time it was in the mountainous Kush region in northern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan.

It was a 7.5 magnitude quake, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), and at least 135 deaths have been recorded so far.

The event comes just one month after a 8.3 magnitude earthquake killed 14 people in Chile, and six months after an earthquake in Nepal resulted in a death toll of almost 10,000.

Earthquakes of this size occur regularly – at least once a year, but they aren't spread evenly across the world. Some places are far more vulnerable than others, and it's all to do with with their locations relative to the Earth's fault lines.

Read more: Nepal earthquake: JCB donates $1m-worth of diggers to relief effort

A fault occurs where there is a crack in the earth's surface that leads to two plates rubbing up against each other. When the mantle underneath the crust moves, the plates can bump into or slide past each other, resulting in an earthquake.

According to data from Statista, China experiences the highest total number of earthquakes each year, followed by Indonesia and Iran.

China is also where the deadliest ever earthquake occurred in 1556, resulting in around 830,000 human deaths in the Shaanxi region.

However, when earthquakes per unit area is measured, the USGS puts Tonga, Fiji and Indonesia at the top, since these are all in “extremely active seismic areas along subduction zones”.

What about the UK?

Luckily for people in Britain, we are far enough away from any major fault lines to not experience devastating earthquakes.

We do have them – the British Geological Survey measures between 200 and 300 each year, but they are very small, and hardly felt.

Read more: Earthquakes in the UK: Why do they happen

The closest plate boundary is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but research suggests the strongest earthquake Britain could ever experience would have a magnitude of 6.5.

The biggest one we have been hit by so far was near the Dogger Bank in 1931, around 60 miles offshore from the East coast of England. It was 6.1 in magnitude, and was powerful enough to cause damage to some buildings on the coast.

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