The world has witnessed numerous disasters over the centuries and although most are man-made due to wars and terrorism, mother nature certainly dishes out her fair share of damage. While there are many criteria as to what would be considered the “worst” natural disaster ranging from lives lost to cost incurred, the earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis you are about to witness are all horrific in their own right. Here are the 25 worst natural disasters ever recorded.
A magnitude 7.0 earthquake that has a depth of 8.1 miles rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. Its epicenter was located just south west of Port-Au-Prince with 59 aftershocks ranging from 4.2 to 5.9 magnitudes in strength. The strongest earthquake to hit the country since 1770, it had led to over 200,000 deaths, 2 million homeless, and 3 million people in need of emergency aid. At least US $195 million have been given with another US $120 million pledges from different countries, along with a large number of aid workers to help with rescue operations.
The first cyclone in 2008 to hit the northern Indian Ocean, Cyclone Nargis made landfall in Myanmar and devastated the Ayeyarwady Delta region along with its 37 townships for two days. Official figures showed that 84,500 people were killed with 53,800 missing. An equivalent of a category 3 or 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, it led to numerous storm surges and flooding.
The 2005 Pakistan earthquake, that registered 7.6 in the Richter scale, had its epicenter in Kashmir near the city of Muzaffarabad. It occurred on the morning of October 8, 2005 and the official death toll was 75,000 people with 106,000 people injured. The severity of the damage was attributed to the poor construction of the buildings. Over US $5.4 billion in aid arrived from all over the world to help with rescue and relief efforts.
The deadliest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, it was ranked as the sixth strongest overall to hit the United States. It was also one of the costliest with estimated property damages of US $81 billion.
Also known as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, it was estimated to be a magnitude 9.15, and occurred on December 26, 2004. While the earthquake itself lasted for only 10 seconds, it caused a tsunami that killed 200,000 to 310,000 people along the shores of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, South India, and Thailand with one death even occurring at Port Elizabeth in South Africa, 8,000 miles away from the epicenter.
Also famed as La Mesa de Herveo, this stratovolcano holds the distinction of causing the second largest volcano-related disaster of the 20th century. The volcano, which generally generates Plinian eruptions or swift-moving currents of hot gas and rock called pyroclastic flows, produced an enormous flow that buried and devastated the town of Armero in Tolima in November 13, 1985. What was tragically known as the “Armero tragedy” caused the death of 25,000 people.
The Great Tangshan earthquake struck China on July 28, 1976 causing the death of 240,000 people and injured 164,000 more. Regarded as the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century, it also rocked, both literally and politically, the seat of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. The very large 7.8 earthquake hit an area where it was totally unexpected causing the city of Tangshan to be obliterated. It was caused by the 25-mile long Tangshan Fault, which runs near the city.
This hurricane was formed by a tropical wave that moved to the west coast of Africa on August 14, 1992. It became a major tropical depression by August 16, though its intensity was initially prevented by a wind shear. During the succeeding days, it developed into a destructive tropical cyclone, named Hurricane Andrew. Due to the massive destruction that caused 65 fatalities and US $26 billion in property damages, this became the 5th costliest hurricane in US history after hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Ike, with the name Andrew retired from the hurricane names list in the spring of 1993.
A 9.0 magnitude quake followed by tsunami waves hit the east coast of Japan in March 11, 2011. With a depth of 24.4 km, this was the largest earthquake to ever strike Japan in recorded history. Documented as the 7th largest earthquake in the world, it led to about 15 million dead or injured, and 2,814 people missing. It also affected 18 prefectures, with over 250,000 buildings damaged or destroyed and caused a near nuclear disaster when there was a partial meltdown in 3 reactors of the Fukushima nuclear plant, which is the 2nd largest nuclear disaster after Chernobyl.
The deadliest earthquake in history, it occurred in October 11, 1138 and was named after the city of Aleppo in Syria, now called Halab. Its death toll was approximated at 230,000 as the city was destroyed along with its surrounding areas.
Also known as the 1920 Gansu Earthquake, this is the 4th worst earthquake ever recorded next to the Antioch Earthquake in the year 526. With a death toll of 240,000, this quake occurred in December 16, 1920 with its epicenter in Haiyuan County, in the Ningxia Province of China.
The third worst earthquake disaster in the world happened in the year 526 and may have probably struck late in May between the 20th and 29th as there is no specific date on record. This major earthquake hit Syria and Antioch with a death toll between 250,000 to 300,000.
Reaching wind speeds of 185 km/h, the Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh led to over US $490 million in damages, destroying 85% of the homes in the region. It also fetched storm surges that wiped out entire villages, killing 45% of the population in Tazumuddin. Nearly 500,000 perished during the cyclone.
Also known as the Christchurch earthquake, this magnitude 6.3 quake that occurred on February 22, 2011 severely damaged New Zealand’s second-largest city. It also killed 185 people, 238 were reported missing, and164 patients were treated for injuries. One of the nation’s deadliest peacetime disasters, this caused significant damage to Christchurch and the central Canterbury region with an estimated US $16 billion worth of damages incurred, though it was of lesser strength than the 7.1 magnitude quake that hit Canterbury six earlier in September 4, 2010.
The second worst blizzard in modern history after the Iran blizzard with regards to casualties, it had an estimated death toll of 1,337 due to temperatures that fell below -30°C with up to 180 centimeters of snow in the mountainous regions. Some were frozen to death, a number died when their vehicles were blocked by snowdrifts and at least 100 people underwent frostbite amputations in hospitals across the country. It also claimed more than 100,000 sheep and goats and 315,000 cattle.