The Western Pacific's geography makes it tremendously volatile, and leaves the region with a lengthy history of disasters, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and towering tsunamis. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, for example, was caused by the second largest earthquake ever recorded — between magnitude 9.1 and 9.3, or more than twice the amount of energy of all the explosives used in the Second World War, including the atomic bombs.

The death toll from that event is estimated at 230,000 people, making it the single most devastating tsunami in history. Deaths were recorded in South Africa, almost 5,000 miles from the epicenter, and in places the wave reached two miles inland. Here, a rundown of disasters in the past hundred years of Pacific history.


September 2007: A 7.8-magnitude earthquake rattles Sumatra, triggering regional tsunami alerts and damaging scores of buildings. An earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.4 near Sumatra triggers a wave in the coastal city of Padang. The tremor kills at least 25 people and injures around 50.

April 2007: At least 28 people in the Solomon Islands die in a tsunami and earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.1.

July 2006: A magnitude-6.1 earthquake triggers a tsunami off Java island's southern coast, killing at least 600 people and displaces about 74,000.

December 2004: An Indian Ocean tsunami, triggered by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, kills 230,000 in a dozen countries.

July 1998: Following a magnitude 7 earthquake off the country's east coast, villages on the north coast of Papua New Guinea were hit by 11 metre tidal waves that killed 2500 people.

December 1992: An Indoneisan tremor touched off several tsunamis, swamping the island of Flores with 2000 deaths.

August 1976: A magnitude-8.0 earthquake hits near the islands of Mindanao and Sulu in the Philippines, generating a tsunami and leaving at least 5,000 dead.

March 1964: An 9.2-magnitude earthquake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, kills 131 people, including 119 from a tsunami.

April 1946: An earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.1 near Unimak Islands, Alaska, triggers a tsunami, killing 165 people, mostly in Hawaii.

June 1896: An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale unleashed a tsunami causing a death toll of more than 27,000 on the Japanese island of Honshu.

August 1883: Following the eruption of a volcano on the island of Krakatoa, tsunamis reaching heights of 40 meters submerge islands, destroy hundreds of villages and kill more than 36,000 people.

April 1868: A 7.9-magnitude earthquake strikes the Big Island, Hawaii, leaving 77 people dead, including 46 from a tsunami.