Natural disasters not only affect the people in the area that they destroy, but indirectly also affect mankind on the whole. We’ll have a look at the worst disasters ever to befall our planet Earth, and some important facts related to them.
|The Worst Disaster Ever
In terms of fatalities, with around 100 million people perishing, the Influenza Pandemic that affected the whole world in 1918 is the worst disaster ever to affect humankind.
Cyclones, snowstorms, thunderstorms, tsunamis, typhoons, and floods can be predicted, and people in the firing zone can be warned before they strike. Taking appropriate preventive measures can help reduce property damage and even prevent loss of life completely. But there are some natural disasters like earthquakes that can never be predicted in advance. As of now, the most mankind has been able to do is identify the fault lines around the world, and try to make those particular areas implement measures to minimize damage and loss of life. Over the past 100 years, we have seen numerous natural disasters hit places around the world. There is also the problem of famine, plague and disease which can kill millions, though nowadays, these do not occur as much as they used to in earlier times.
Worst Natural Disasters Ever
The tables here depict the figures of the most devastating natural disasters on record. Events have been arranged in descending order of fatalities. As we can see, a natural calamity can strike anywhere, and it knows no boundaries.
|Global (Influenza Pandemic)||1918||100,000,000|
|Global (Influenza Pandemic)||1957||4,000,000|
|Global (Influenza Pandemic)||1968||750,000|
|France, Germany (Smallpox)||1870||500,000|
|Africa, Asia, Europe||1346||25,000,000|
|Germany, Sweden, Finland||1709||300,000|
|North Korea Flood||1995||3,500,000|
Top 10 Disasters in the Past 100 Years
This list is in order of the highest loss of human life and property. Therefore, there may be other natural calamities that were worse, but the affected area withstood them better, for reasons varying from preparedness, infrastructure, rescue, etc.
China Floods (1931)
This deadly flooding that submerged central China in 1931 is probably the worst natural disaster ever to hit mankind in the last century. Commonly known as the Central China floods, it is believed that there were warning signs that preceded this natural calamity. 1930 saw central China experience a terrible drought, which was then followed by very heavy rains. This resulted in the overfilling of all the water bodies in the region. Then in the month of July, as many as 7 cyclones hit the region one after the other, resulting in widespread flooding. There was tremendous destruction all over. According to the Chinese government, only 150,000 people perished, but international sources and records state that as many as 4 million people lost their lives in this flooding, while nearly 30 million individuals were displaced, easily making it the worst natural disaster of the 20th century.
Bhola Cyclone (1970)
The Bhola Cyclone was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever to be recorded. It hit Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and parts of India in 1970. It was a category 5 hurricane, that also resulted in widespread flooding, besides the overwhelming destruction during the storm. Wind speeds astonishingly reached as high as 160 mph, destroying islands and villages on the way. 500,000 human beings perished in this calamity, besides the uncountable loss of property. This cyclone was so severe, that is managed to change a lot of the landscape in Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal in India.
Haiti Earthquake (2010)
A 7-magnitude earthquake shook the whole of Haiti in January 2010. The epicenter was near Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Poor building construction and infrastructure added to the loss of property and human life. What made matters worse after that was, in the 2 weeks time after the main earthquake, there were more than 50 aftershocks, each of magnitudes 5 or more. This area had never seen anything like this, and it was estimated that more than 250,000 people died in this disaster. A similar number were injured, and nearly 1 million people were displaced and left homeless. Nearly 300,000 structures were either severely damaged or collapsed completely, something that was a strong indication of the widespread destruction this earthquake caused in the region.
Tangshan Earthquake (1976)
The Great Tangshan Earthquake, with a magnitude of around 8, occurred in 1976 in Tangshan, China. If simply loss of life is taken into consideration, then this was the deadliest earthquake in the whole of the 20th century. It didn’t end there. A second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit the same region in less than 24 hours, which doubled the impact. The first instance of shaking lasted for 20+ seconds, which resulted in a lot of destruction and loss of life. An estimated 275,000 people lost their lives in this calamity, while around 160,000 were badly injured.
Indian Ocean Earthquake / Tsunami (2004)
In December 2004, an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 occurred off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake rattled the area for an amazing 10 minutes or so, one of the longest durations ever on record. It was so severe that it triggered earthquakes even as far as Alaska, and caused the Earth to vibrate by 1 centimeter. This resulted in the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which slammed into nearly 15 countries around the region. Waves as high as 30 meters were experienced in many places, which caused the water to push itself inland, devastating many areas in its path. Countries that were most affected were Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. The resulting death toll was around 270,000.
Cyclone Nargis (2008)
Tropical Cyclone Nargis was a natural disaster in 2008 that battered the country of Myanmar. It was the worst natural disaster ever to hit that country. The cyclone first developed in the Bay of Bengal, and then slowly moved towards Myanmar, intensifying even more, and at its peak, reached winds of the speed of 110 mph. It was officially termed as a category 4 cyclone, and left 140,000 people dead, with more than 50,000 either injured or missing. Myanmar’s already weak economy took a huge blow due to this disaster, which besides claiming so much of human life, also caused widespread damage.
Great Kanto Earthquake (1923)
In 1923, the Japanese island of Honshu’s Kanto plain was struck by a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake, that lasted for a whole 10 minutes. The place was shaken up so badly that it affected places as far as Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Yokohama, and Shizuoka. Besides immense destruction, there was also heavy loss of life due to fires and landslides that were caused by the earthquake. The resulting death toll was put at around 140,000.
Japan Earthquake (2011)
As we speak, Japan is still underway with its damage control and rebuilding measures due to this calamity. In 2011, a 9-magnitude earthquake struck near Sendai, shaking the whole of Japan. Television footage showed many towns and cities shaking violently due to the earthquake. Tsunami warnings were put in place all across, not only in Japan, but even Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand, and also as far as Hawaii and the United States. As expected, a resulting tsunami struck Japan causing widespread destruction. Waves as high as 35 feet slammed into the country and flooded places as far as 7 miles inland, causing large-scale damage on the way. Larger than normal-sized waves were also experienced in countries all around the Pacific. The earthquake and tsunami also severely damaged many of Japan’s nuclear reactors, resulting in radiation leaks, and the fear of severe radiation leakage still looms large. There were over 500 aftershocks in just a matter of 10 days after the main quake. Loss of life was around 15,000, with even a greater number of people missing.
Gujarat Earthquake (2001)
In 2001, an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.7 shook the western Indian state of Gujarat. Obviously, with such a huge shock, there was widespread damage. The quake even shook southern parts of Pakistan. As a result, the loss of life was estimated to be around 20,000, and nearly 170,000 people were injured. It left more than half a million people homeless. Around a million structures were either partially or completely damaged due to this earthquake.
Hurricane Katrina (2005)
Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the United States. The storm started forming near the Bahamas, and actually hit the US coast only as a level-1 hurricane. Suddenly, it strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico and turned into a level-3 storm. The places that were severely affected in its path were Florida, Texas, and worst of all, New Orleans in Louisiana. More than 80% of the city was flooded. Coastal areas witnessed water moving around 10 miles inland, causing massive destruction. A little less than 2,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The loss to the US economy was a whopping $80 bn, making it the most expensive natural disaster, not only in the US, but in the world.
Humans, along with this planet, will never be safe from these natural calamities. They have occurred for millions of years, and will continue to do so in the future too. We can do nothing to stop them. But when we look at some of the worst disasters that have taken place, we can learn something. There are many preventive measures that can be taken up by respective governments and agencies, which will lessen the damage and loss of life. We can’t fight the forces of nature, but have to live with them in the best way we can.