The "Ring of Fire" refers to a curved area surrounding the Pacific Ocean that is known for its frequent seismic activity. It begins in the Southern Hemisphere (around New Zealand) and extends upward, including many of the major Asian Pacific Islands and all of Japan. It continues north until it eventually loops over through the southern coast of Alaska and continues all the way down the western coast of the American continents. The Ring of Fire has been the location of a vast number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
One of the deadliest earthquakes in the Ring of Fire occurred in Tangshan, China, on July 27, 1976. This earthquake, which hit the city of 1 million people located on China's northeastern coast, measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. The Chinese government announced a death toll of 250,000 people. However, many believe that the actual death toll was much higher, perhaps even as many as 655,000 people.
Japan is situated firmly within the Ring of Fire and has experienced many earthquakes throughout the years. In fact, the most expensive earthquake in history hit outside Kobe, Japan, on January 17, 1995. About 5,000 people were killed during the earthquake, which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale. More than 200,000 buildings in areas with high property values were either destroyed or severely damaged by the Great Hanshin Earthquake (as the Japanese call it). The final bill for all the destruction was in excess of $100 billion.
On December 26, 2004, an incredibly powerful earthquake (measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale) occurred in the Indian Ocean, just off the western coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The massive earthquake triggered an equally massive tsunami, which is estimated to have killed between 230,000 and 290,000 people in 12 different countries, including losses of 168,000 people just within Indonesia. This earthquake was so strong that it literally upset the Earth's rotation by nearly an inch.
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