This day……..51 years ago saw the most powerful earthquake in recorded history, with a reading of 9.5. Its epicentre was close to the city of Canete in Chile about 560 miles south of Santiago.
It caused tsunamis that battered the Chilean coast with waves up to 80 feet high. Hawaii was also hit, and 35 foot high waves were recorded as far away as Japan and the Philippines. Australia and New Zealand also experienced tsunamis.
Chile had already suffered a smaller earthquake the previous day, and the government was trying to organise a relief effort when the big one struck. Some coastal villages disappeared completely, while about 40 per cent of the houses in the city of Valdivia were destroyed, leaving about 20,000 people homeless.
Estimates of the total number of people killed range as high as 6,000, including more than 60 in Hilo, the main town on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. The death toll in Japan was more than 140.