Deadliest Natural Disasters of the Century
What happened yesterday in Japan is horrifying and my heart goes to all the victims. Makes me wonder — is Manila and the rest of the Philippines ready for something like that to smash on our shores in a matter of minutes? With a dense population estimate of over 11 million people in Metro Manila alone, it is difficult to fathom the extent of damage and lost of lives it can do. Think about it.
If you think Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy), Typhoon Parma (Pepeng) and the recent Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami disaster is a big deal, take a look at the list of natural disasters and statistics below and blow your heart to smithereens.
Top Ten Deadliest Natural Disasters of the Century
1. Central China Floods of 1931
Death Toll (estimate): 1,000,000 – 3,700,000
Date: July to November 1931
Areas affected : Yellow River, Yangtze River, Huai River
The 1931 Central China floods or the Central China floods of 1931 are a series of floods that occurred during the Nanjing decade in the Republic of China era. It is generally considered the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded , and almost certainly the deadliest of the 20th century (when pandemics are discounted) and in China. The human casualties are estimated from lows of 400,000 to highs of 3.7 million to 4 million.
2. 1970 Bhola Cyclone
Death Toll (estimate) – 500,000
Location: East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)
Date: November 1970
Areas affected: India, East Pakistan
The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970. It was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times. Up to 500,000 people lost their lives in the storm, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta. This cyclone was the sixth cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and also the season’s strongest, reaching a strength equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
3. Haiti Earthquake
Death Toll (estimate): 316,000
Date: January 2010
Areas affected : Port-au-Prince, Léogâne, Jacmel
The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010.
By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake; the Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. The death toll has also been suggested to be much lower at somewhere between 92,000 and 220,000, with around 1.5 million to 1.8 million homeless. The government of Haiti also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
4. Great Tangshan Earthquake
Death Toll (estimate): 242,419
Damage: 10,000,000,000 Yuan
Date: July 1976
Areas affected : Tangshan, Hebei, China
The Tangshan Earthquake also known as the Great Tangshan Earthquake, was a natural disaster that occurred on July 28, 1976. It is one of the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll.The epicenter of the earthquake was near Tangshan in Hebei, People’s Republic of China, an industrial city with approximately one million inhabitants. The number of deaths initially reported by the Chinese government was 655,000, but this number has since been stated to be around 240,000 to 255,000. A further 164,000 people were recorded as being severely injured.
The earthquake hit in the early morning, at 03:42:53.8 local time (1976 July 27 19:42:53.8 UTC), and lasted 23 seconds. Chinese government official sources state a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, though some sources listed it as high as 8.2. It was followed by a major 7.8 magnitude aftershock some 16 hours later, increasing the death toll.
5. 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake
Death Toll (estimate): 234,000
Location: Haiyuan, Ningxia
Date: December 1920
Areas affected : Republic of China
1920 Haiyuan earthquake, was an earthquake that occurred on December 16, 1920. The epicenter was 36.50°N 105.70°E, in Haiyuan County, Ningxia Province, Republic of China. It was also called the 1920 Gansu earthquake because Ningxia was a part of Gansu Province when the earthquake occurred.
The earthquake hit at local time 20:06:53 (GMT 12:06:53), reportedly 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, followed by a series of aftershocks for three years. Today’s Chinese media claim the earthquake as of magnitude 8.5, although the scale is not specified. It caused total destruction (XII – the maximum intensity on the Mercalli scale) in the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area.
Total casualty was reported as 200,000 in a summary published by the United States Geological Survey, 240,000 according to Ningxia Daily, a Chinese publication in the current administrative area, and 235,502 according to the Catalog of Damaging Earthquakes in the World (Through 2008) maintained by the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering.
6. The Boxing Day (Indian Ocean Tsunami)
Death Toll (estimate): 230,210
Location: west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia
Date: December 1920
Areas affected : Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. The resulting tsunami is given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Asian Tsunami, Indonesian Tsunami, and Boxing Day Tsunami.
The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (100 feet) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest hit, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
With a magnitude of between 9.1 and 9.3, it is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. This earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 cm (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its hypocenter was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia.
7. The Great Kanto Earthquake
Death Toll (estimate): 142,000
Date: September 1923
Areas affected : Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, Kantō
The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake struck the Kantō plain on the Japanese main island of Honshū at 11:58:44 am JST on September 1, 1923. Varied accounts hold that the duration of the earthquake was between 4 and 10 minutes.The quake had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, with its focus deep beneath Izu Ōshima Island in Sagami Bay.
This earthquake devastated Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama, surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, and Shizuoka, and caused widespread damage throughout the Kantō region. The power and intensity is astonishing: it managed to move the 93-ton Great Buddha statue at Kamakura which was over 60 km away from the epicenter. The statue slid forward almost two feet. Tsunamis of up to 10 meters were recorded. Over 570,000 homes were destroyed, leaving an estimated 1.9 million homeless. There were 57 accountable aftershocks.
8. Cyclone Nargis
Death Toll (estimate): 138,366
Date: May 2008
Areas affected: Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Burma
Cyclone Nargis (also known as Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis), was a strong tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Myanmar. The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 138,000 fatalities. The Labutta Township alone was reported to have 80,000 dead, with about 10,000 more deaths in Bogale. There were around 55,000 people missing and many other deaths were found in other towns and areas, although the Burmese government’s official death toll may have been underreported, and there have been allegations that they stopped updating the death-toll after 138,000 to minimize political fallout. The feared ‘second wave’ of fatalities from disease and lack of relief efforts never materialized. Damage was estimated at over US$10 billion, which made it the most damaging cyclone ever recorded in this basin.
9. Bangladesh Cyclone
Death Toll (estimate): 138,866
Date: May 2008
Areas affected: Bangladesh
The 1991 Bangladesh cyclone was among the deadliest tropical cyclones on record. On the night of 29 April 1991 a powerful tropical cyclone struck the Chittagong district of southeastern Bangladesh with winds of around 250 km/h (155 mph). The storm forced a 6 metre (20 ft) storm surge inland over a wide area, killing at least 138,000 people and leaving as many as 10 million homeless. Most deaths were from drowning, with the highest mortality among children and the elderly.
10. Ashgabat Earthquake
Death Toll (estimate): 110,000
Damage: No estimate available
Date: May 2008
Areas affected: Soviet Union, Turkmen SSR, Iran
The 1948 Ashgabat earthquake, at a magnitude 7.3 Mw, occurred on 6 October 1948 near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (then Soviet Union). The earthquake is considered to be one of the deadliest earthquake in the history of humankind. Due to censorship by the national government, the Ashgabat Earthquake was not much reported in USSR media. The scholars tend to agree that ban on publicity of the extent of earthquake casualties and damages did not allow the Soviet government to allocate enough financial resources to adequately respond to disaster. Admiral Ellis M. Zacharias, former Deputy Chief of The Office Of Naval Intelligence, on his radio show Secret Missions (twice, on December 12, 1948, and on September 26, 1949), purported that the cause of the earthquake was the first Soviet atomic bomb test.
One Response to “Deadliest Natural Disasters of the Century”
Please review posts #9 and #10. For whatever reasons, the information is incorrect. It seems your dating got stuck on ‘May 2008’ following the #8 post for ‘Cyclone Nargis’.
Other than that, this has been a very educational and informative read. For example, I was shocked to read:
‘This earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 cm (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska.’
I did not know that the entire planet vibrated by as much as 1cm. Crikey. I was not aware that the entire planet could vibrate.
I clearly remember being at the kitchen sink, doing the washing up, as news of the Boxing Day Tsunami (BDT) was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. News travels even faster nowadays. Back then, the BDT was all anybody in London was talking about, for weeks. Focusing on disaster relief. Which is just how it should have been.