Natural disasters are awful events that have the potential to cause major damage and loss of life. Globally, around 60,000 people die each year as a result of disasters such as droughts, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis, and a further 150 million people are impacted by these events, Live Science previously reported.
Recent data from the University of Oxford showed that in the past decade, global natural disasters have accounted for just 0.1% of total deaths. And although death from natural disasters has been declining for the past century, these events continue to have significant impact on loss and damage.
Just to get you thinking, these are some of the largest, most deadly, and most costly natural disasters that have occurred throughout history.
1. THE 1900 GREAT GALVESTON STORM
The 1900 storm brought destructive windspeeds of up to 140 mph, affecting not only Galveston, but also some of Texas’s biggest ports. Roughly 3,600 houses and 600 businesses were reduced to rubble across a whopping 1,900 acres (770 hectares) according to the Texas Historical Foundation.
It is not clear how many people died during the hurricane, but estimates from the Foundation said the final death toll was around 6,000 to 8,000 people, about one-sixth of the island’s population.
2. THE 2008 SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE
On May 12, 2008, in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, China a 7.9 earthquake hit central China causing major damage. More than 87,000 people were killed and thousands were injured by buildings collapsing and infrastructure failing during what was estimated to be over 50 aftershocks over several months following the main quake. Homes were damaged or destroyed for nearly 4 million people. Total economic loss reached about $122 billion making it one of deadliest natural disasters on record.
3. THE 2019 AND 2020 AUSTRALIA WILDFIRE
In 2019 and 2020, the Parliament of Australia recorded a high number of death tolls for the recent Australian wildfires. Another 445 people have died as a result of conditions related to the wildfires, while 4,000 have been admitted to the hospital, according to the BBC.
During the 2019-2020 winter, 19 million hectares of Australia’s forests in the southeastern region caught fire and were devastated, according to the Center of Disaster Philanthropy. While the Parliament of Australia agrees that the majority of these fires were the result of lightning, not many wildfires are believed to have been ignited by other natural factors, as opposed to careless campers or an unexpected forest fire. researchers at the University of Oxford concluded that risk of intense fire weather has increased by 30% in Australia because of climate change.
4. THE 2017 HURRICANE MARIA
According to NBC News, Hurricane Maria was the deadliest U.S.-based natural disaster in the last 100 years and the highest average rainfall ever recorded in Puerto Rico since 129 storms have hit the country in the past 60 years.
When Hurricane Maria passed through the island, it caused deadly floods with an estimated death toll over 4,600. After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, it became the third most costly hurricane in U.S. history with damages worth an estimated $98 billion according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
5. THE 1815 MOUNT TAMBORA ERUPTION
When Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia, erupted on April 10, 1815, it marked the end of the largest eruption in recorded history. It’s believed that 36 cubic miles (150 cubic km) of rock exploded into the atmosphere and could be seen from as far as 808 miles (1,300 km) away, according to NASA.
The explosion caused so much volcanic ash to fill the Earth’s atmosphere that the sun’s heat couldn’t reach the Earth. This, in turn, reduced the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere, as recorded by NOAA, by 1 degree Fahrenheit. As a result, 1816 was known as the year without a summer. With the record-keeping suggesting 11,000 immediate deaths, including people who were burned alive in pyroclastic flows, and many more dying because the eruptions caused a food shortage that lasted over a decade, this volcano left an important impact on our planet.
6. THE 1986 LAKE NYOS ERUPTION
1986 witnessed the worst example of CO2 as a killer. Gases coming from magma mixed with surface water as 1,800 people and 3,000 livestock died when CO2 escaped a basin in Cameroon. In 1986, an explosion of CO2 gas came from the lake in an event called a limnic eruption.
According to the University of Wisconsin, the gas cloud drifted down the surrounding hillsides and suffocated neighboring villages. Eight hundred and forty-five people survived the event, 19% of whom had blisters and ulcers (expanded or inflated tissue usually filled with fluid) as a result of contact with the CO2.
7. THE 1970 HUASCARÁN AVALANCHE
According to the BBC, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake resulted in a deadly landslide that occured on May 31, 1970, about 22 miles (35 km) from Peru’s highest mountain, Mount Huascarán. Massive landslides occurred in response to the earthquake, and one buried the town of Yungay and another the town of Ranrahirca.
One estimate predicts that 70,000 people lost their lives when mountain ice and rocks, including a 700-ton boulder, cascaded at around 100 mph (160 km/h) from Huascarán, according to the BBC.
8. THE 2005 KASHMIR EARTHQUAKE
In 2005, Kashmir in Pakistan was struck by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake, according to the Earth Observatory of Singapore. Landslides triggered by the earthquake buried a number of towns and villages, including Balakot and Muzaffarabad.
Around 90% of all buildings in Balakot were demolished by the quake, according to the BBC. Around 3 million homes throughout Kashmir were destroyed in total. more than 75,000 people were killed and a further 100,000 were injured according to NASA. The rapid release of seismic stress from the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates was the cause of the earthquake.
9. THE 1931 YANGTZE RIVER FLOODS
1931’s central China floods were one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history. Heavy rainfall over central China that lasted through July and August brought snowmelt and rain to a total of over 24 inches (600 millimeters). The Yangtze River quickly became an unstoppable flood. (the Yangtze also reached high levels). As stated in The Nature of Disaster in China: The 1931 Yangzi River Flood (Cambridge University Press, 2018), the flood inundated almost 70,000 square miles (180,000 square km) and turned the Yangtze into what looked like a giant lake or ocean. Official government numbers put the number of dead at around 2 million, but other agencies, including NOAA, say it may have been as many as 3.7 million people.
10. THE 1556 SHAANXI EARTHQUAKE
The deadliest earthquake in history hit China’s Shaanxi province on Jan. 23, 1556. Known as the Jiajing Great Earthquake after the emperor who presided over the country during that time, the temblor reduced a 621-square-mile (1,000 square kilometers) swath of the country to rubble, according to the Science Museums of China. Around 830,000 people died as a result of their cave homes being obliterated. The precise magnitude of the quake is unknown, but geophysicists today estimate it to be about magnitude 8.