10 most lethal natural disasters of all time
The natural disasters are the Earth’s way payback, is what the believers say, and well, what we know (then too we keep on extracting from it as it will never end). They come after an unsettling calm and even on their departure, the calm of destruction and lifelessness ensues. Here we are the list of ten most destructive disasters of all time (they are ranked as per the number of causalities they caused).
10) 1976 Tangshan earthquake, China (242,000–655,000)
Claiming around 242,000 to 655,000 lives, The Tangshan earthquake, or the Great Tangshan earthquake, was a natural disaster that occurred on July 28, 1976. Being the most destructive disaster of the entire 20th century, it had its epicenter in the near Tangshan in Hebei, People’s Republic of China, shaking the industrial city with approximately one million inhabitants. Due to lack of proper reporting the number is vaguely between 240,000 to 650,000, with a report of at least 164,000 injured. It hit early in the morning and lasted 14-16 seconds, with a magnitude of 7.8 on Richter scale. The final death toll was reached due to the 7.1 Richter scale aftershock that occurred 16 hours later.
9) 526 Antioch earthquake, Byzantine Empire (250,000–300,000)
Yes, you read the 526 right as this earthquake shook Syria (region) and Antioch in the Byzantine Empire this early in history. Striking during late May, at mid-morning, it killed approximately 250,000 people. To make matters worse, it was followed by a fire that destroyed most of the buildings left standing by the earthquake. The Mercalli intensity scale was used at that time and the earthquake measured to be between VIII (Severe) and IX (Violent) on it. It was followed by 18 entire months of disruptive aftershocks. It took down many buildings as well Constantine’s great octagonal church Domus Aurea built on an island in the Orontes River. The death toll was between 250,000 and 300,000, with 250,000 being the most commonly reported, claiming important lives like that of Euphrasius the Patriarch of Antioch, who died by falling into a cauldron of pitch being used by wineskin makers, with only his head remaining unburnt.
8) 1970 Bhola cyclone, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) (250,000–500,000)
The devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970, remains the deadliest cyclone of its kind ever recorded. The storms caused flooding of low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta killing up to 500,000 people. This cyclone was the sixth and strongest cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. It started over the Bay of Bengal on November 8 and grew stronger going north, with winds reaching 115 mph. it wiped out villages and farmlands, with the worst effects seen in the district of Tazumuddin, with the mortality rate of 46.3%. The highest survival rate was of the males aged 15-49, while more than half was of children under ten, making it a cyclone of heart-breaks for many people.
7) 1920 Haiyuan earthquake, China (273,400)
Shaking up the Haiyuan County Ningxia Province, Republic of China, the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake occurred on December 16, 1920, with a report of 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale. It hit at 20:05:53 Beijing time, but the real devastation occurred due to the series of aftershocks that followed for next three years. It caused total destruction XII (Extreme) (the maximum intensity on the Mercalli scale) in the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area, killing 73,000 in Haiyuan and 33,000 in Guyuan, with the collapse of almost all residential areas in the cities of Longde and Huining. It was felt from the Yellow Sea to Qinghai (Tsinghai) Province and from Nei Mongol (Inner Mongolia) south to central Sichuan Province. The others perished due to the aftershocks and the cold due to lack of properly built houses. There were many landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area contributing to the casualties too, making it eligible for this list.
6) 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Indian Ocean (280,000)
One of the deadliest and scary tsunamis of all time, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with its epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It had a staggering Richter reading of 9.1-9.3, as the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggering a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. It mercilessly claimed the lives of 280,000 people, and took them by shock as the sudden waves reached a height up to 30 meters! It hit Indonesia the most, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. It went out for a record breaking 8.3 to 10 entire minutes with the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. The aftermath was so sorrowful that it prompted a worldwide humanitarian response. In all, the worldwide community donated more than US$14 billion (2004) in humanitarian aid. As we say guys, every grain, every penny, every thread matters.
5) 1737 Calcutta cyclone, India (300,000)
A natural disaster struck the city of Kolkata in India, which was first believed to be an earthquake but later on turned out to be a tropical cyclone. It happened on 7 October 1737, as per the reports of Thomas Joshua Moore, the duties collector for the British East India Company in Calcutta. It claimed the lives of 300,000 after destroying 20,000 ships. Its actual number of causalities is still unsure as many manuscripts and newspapers give varying details but the number 300,000 is the most common one and it is said that most deaths happened due to lack of resources provided to the affected Indian population as they were still a part of the English colony (even death didn’t move them).
4) 1839 India cyclone, India (300,000)
This is one of the 308 deadly cyclones that hit the cyclone prone country of India from 1891 to 2000, 103 of which were severe. Yes, 308! One of the victims of this attack of nature was the small city of Corringa, which is in Andhra Pradesh, southern part of India. It happened on 25th of November, 1839 and came with a 40-feet storm surge that wiped out the entire coastal area. In its wake, it destroyed 25,000 ships and several vessels in the bay, thus costing 300,000 lives. Hence, it was concluded that most of the causalities happened in the waters as the city consisted of people involved in water-related jobs. The destruction was so major that the city has never been rebuilt. In fact, the term “cyclone” was coined during this time as Henry Piddington, an official of the British East India Company, created the word ‘Cyclone’ after seeing the natural disaster in 1789 and 1839 by a “swirling circle”. This storm is said to have caused the third largest amounts of deaths worldwide by a tropical cyclone.
3) 1556 Shaanxi earthquake, China (830,000)
This earthquake occurred a long time ago in the city of Shaanxi, China, on the morning of 23 January 1556. It is the deadliest earthquake recorded till now and killed approximately 830,000 people. It affected more than one city in fact, as more than 97 counties were its victim including the provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Gansu, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and Anhui were affected. Approximately 520-mile-wide area was destroyed and in some counties as much as 60% of the population was killed. Its epicenter was in the Wei River Valley in Shaanxi Province, near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin. It was so massive that it did not leave even one building or structure upright in many cities, opened huge crevices on the grounds, and even triggered landslides, explaining the massive death toll. Therefore, in the Chinese historical record, this earthquake is often referred to as the Jiajing Great earthquake.
2) 1887 Yellow River flood, China (900,000–2,000,000)
The 1887 Yellow River flood was a devastating flood on the Yellow River (Huang He) in China, as this river is prone to flooding as it is elevated in nature. This flood began in September 1887, killing about 900,000 people and is thus, the holder of the second position here. Heavy rains caused the river to swell up, which then started spreading very quickly throughout Northern China, covering an estimated 50,000 square miles (130,000 km2), swamping agricultural settlements and commercial centers. After the flood, two million were left homeless, thus adding as many casualties as the flood directly caused, and thus, the resulting pandemic was hard to curb, claiming further lives in the waves of the Yellow River.
1) 1931 China floods, China (1,000,000–4,000,000)
Do not gape, the number written in the title is very much true. The 1931 China Floods were an array of destructive floods that claimed lives of many innocents in the Republic of China. Estimates of the death toll range from 650,000 to at least 3.7-4 millions (yes, MILLIONS!), making these the deadliest of the natural disasters to have ever disrupted the Earth. Following this, a long drought afflicted China from 1928 to 1930. A cycle of heavy snowstorms followed by sudden spring thaw and heavy rains raised the levels of the water. The rain grew heavier in July and August 1931. The worst period of flooding was from July to August 1931. In July alone, four weather stations along the Yangtze River reported rain totaling over 600 mm (24 in) for the month! Lack of aid, food and even ironically, drinking water, along with a massive epidemic break, these floods are a part of history nobody wants repeated.
As we see, the list mentioned of the disasters so destructive that even reading about them gives you goosebumps. As much as we pray that they never happen again, let’s always keep a part of our mind open to help out the ones affected, and even stay prepared lest they repeat themselves, or better, indulge in activities that keep the Earth calm rather than full on destroy mode 101.