EARTHQUAKES – such as the ones which shook Iran and Iraq and Mexico – are capable of causing catastrophic damage, destruction and death.
But in what countries are they most common and where was the biggest one ever recorded?
Getty Images Damage to a highway in New Zealand following an earthquake earlier this week
Which country has the most earthquakes?
Japan has the most recorded earthquakes in the world as it sits on a highly active seismic area, but research by the US Geological Survey suggests the answer is not quite as straightforward as it may seem.
Indonesia is thought to sit on an even more seismically active area, but due to its size Japan records more earthquakes.
Tonga, Fiji and Indonesia probably all experience more earthquakes per square mile than Japan, but due to a lack of recording equipment in these areas some smaller quakes are not logged.
The countries which experience the most catastrophic earthquakes are China, and Turkey.
AP:Associated Press Members of the regional alpine emergency rescue team escort residents to their village of Castelluccio, Italy to inspect earthquake damage
Where was the biggest earthquake ever recorded?
Scientists give earthquakes a magnitude rating based on the strength and duration of their seismic waves.
A quake measuring 3 to 5 is considered minor or light; 5 to 7 is moderate to strong; 7 to 8 is major; and 8 or more is great.
The largest quake ever recorded was near Valdivia, in southern Chile on May 22, 1960.
It was measured at a magnitude of 9.5, lasted for 10 minutes and triggered a tsunami.
Estimates of the number killed by the natural disaster in Chile vary between 1,000 and 6,000.
The deadliest, and second largest, earthquake ever recorded struck the island of Sumatra in Indonesia in 2004.
The magnitude 9.3 quake triggered a catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean which is believed to have killed more than 280,000 people in several countries.
AP:Associated Press A car is smashed by debris from the earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran
What happened in the Iraq-Iran earthquake?
At least 328 people have been killed and 2,500 people were injured after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook Iran and Iraq.
Around 70,000 people were left in need of emergency shelter after tremors were felt across the Middle East, including Turkey, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The quake was centred 32 km southwest of Halabjah, near the north eastern border with Iran, and struck at a depth of 25km.
Mum-of-three Majida Ameer who ran out of her building in Iraq’s Salihiya district said: “I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air.
“I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming ‘Earthquake!’”
Getty – Contributor An earthquake caused devastation and homelessness in Mexico City in September 2017
What happened in Mexico Earthquake?
This magnitude 8.1 earthquake killed 15 people in Mexico including a baby and triggered a mini-tsunami.
It is the strongest one to hit the country in 100 years.
The quake toppled buildings and sent people running into the streets on the south coast.
Eight countries in Central America were set to be battered by the three-metre tsunami.
On September 19, another earthquake struck Mexico City, the country’s capital but the US Geological Survey say the 7.1 earthquake was too far from the 8.1 quake that struck the country 11 days ago to be treated as an aftershock.
AP:Associated Press A road in japan destroyed by an earthquake
Are there ever earthquakes in the UK?
The UK is not associated with earthquakes but between 20 and 30 are felt each year and a few hundred recorded by sensitive instruments.
Most are very small and cause no damage.
The most damaging earthquake to shake the UK hit Colchester in 1884 and damaged about 1,200 buildings, according to the British Geological Society.
Scientists believe the largest possible earthquake in the UK would be about magnitude 6.5.
What causes earthquakes?
Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates.
Some 80 per cent occur around the rim of the Pacific Ocean.
The plates – giant rock slabs that make up the Earth’s upper layer – are always slowly moving.
They often collide and slide against each other, according to National Geographic.
This impact can be unnoticeable on the surface, but can cause immense stress between the plates.
When this stress is released, it causes massive vibrations, called seismic waves, often hundreds of miles through the rock to the surface.
Chandelier swings as Iraq is hit by 7.3 magnitude earthquake close to Iran border