|Earthquakes result from a sudden release of energy along faultlines in the Earth's crust [EPA]
The following is a chronology of major earthquakes in recent years:
February 22, 2011
A powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 166 people.
China: April 14, 2010
A quake of between 6.9 and 7.1 magnitude killed at least 2,039 people and devastated rural homes in remote Yushu county, Qinghai province, 2,500km west of Beijing.
Turkey: March 8, 2010
A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey, centred on the village of Basyurt in Elazig province, about 550km (340 miles) east of Ankara, the country's capital.
Chile: February 27, 2010
A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hits central Chile, about 91km north-east of the city of Concepcion and 317km south-west of the capital, Santiago, killing more than 400 people.
Haiti: January 12, 2010
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake hits the capital Port-au-Prince demolishing buildings across the city, killing more than 200,000.
Sumatra, Indonesia: September 30, 2009
Magnitude 7.6 earthquake hits the city of Padang and surrounding areas, killing more than 1,100 people.
Samoan islands: September 29, 2009
A magnitude 8 to 8.3 quake hit between the islands of Samoa and American Samoa, triggering a powerful series of tsunamis.
At least 186 people are killed.
Bhutan: September 21, 2009
A magnitude 6.1 quake struck 180km east of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. At least 10 people were killed.
Andaman and Nicobar islands: August 10, 2009
A magnitude 7.6 quake struck in the Indian Ocean islands. No fatalities were recorded.
Japan: August 9, 2009
A magnitude 7.1 quake struck off the south coast of Honshu, Japan's main island.
No fatalities or damage was recorded.
New Zealand: July 15, 2009
A 7.6 magnitude quake struck off the coast of New Zealand's south island.
No fatalities or damage was recorded as it struck 150km west of the town of Invercargill.
Italy: April 6, 2009
A 6.3 magnitude quake struck the city of L'Aquila, in the mountainous Abruzzo region, east of Rome, killing at least 292 people.
Pakistan: October 29, 2008
A 6.8 magnitude quake struck 60km northeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, killing at least 160 people.
China: May 12, 2008
More than 70,000 people were killed in Sichuan province after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region.
Pakistan: October 8, 2005
At least 73,000 people were killed by a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck about 95km northeast of Islamabad. The quake also rocked Indian-administered Kashmir, killing 1,244 people there.
Aceh, Indonesia: December 26, 2004
A massive 9.1 magnitude quake strikes off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, triggering a series of deadly tsunamis that sweep across the Indian Ocean.
Around 230,000 people are killed, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand among the worst-hit countries.
Iran: December 26, 2003
A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the historic city of Bam, 1,000km southeast of Tehran. More than 30,000 were killed.
Algeria: May 21, 2003
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Algiers and nearby towns to the east, killing 2,251 and injuring 10,243.
India: January 26, 2001
An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck the western state of Gujarat killing at least 19,700 people and causing damage in neighbouring Pakistan. The quake affected 15.9 million people in 7,904 villages.
Turkey: August 17, 1999
More than 17,800 people killed by a magnitude 7.4 quake.
Afghanistan: May 30, 1998
A magnitude 6.9 quake kills up to 4,000 people in northern Takhar province.
Afghanistan: February 4, 1998
At least 4,500 people were killed in Takhar province in a quake of magnitude 6.1.
Japan: January 17, 1995
A magnitude 7.2 quake, the country's worst in half a century, rocked Kobe, killing 6,430 people.
India: September 30, 1993
A series of quakes killed almost 10,000 people in western and southern India. The first quake was of magnitude 6.4.