When Ernest Becker, a former cultural anthropologist and author, called mother nature the B-word, he was probably hinting at natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. Over the years, such catastrophes have taken away thousands of innocent lives and destroyed properties worth billions of dollars. Their unpredictability makes them even more dangerous; you never know when they might strike. In this article, we’ll list some of the most terrifying natural disasters that have occurred in the past.

1. Yangtze River Flooding in 1931

In August 1931, China experienced heavy rainfall. At the same time, the spring snow melted in the mountains, and all the water found its way to the longest river in Asia, the Yangtze River. This caused one of the biggest floods recorded in history.

Major cities such as Nanjing and Wuhan were covered in floods, forcing thousands of people to vacate their homes. The situation worsened when the barrier in Lake Gaoyou broke and flooded an area measuring 180,000 sq. km.

Sadly, many people were killed by the floods, whereas others succumbed to starvation and water-borne diseases like cholera and malaria. Estimates show that the Yangtze River flooding claimed the lives of about 2 million people.

2. Haiti Earthquake in 2010

At around 4:53 pm on January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the town of Leogane, located about 16 miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately, reports indicate that around 100,000 to 316,000 people lost their lives.

Almost everything in this earthquake’s radius, including schools and hospitals, was turned to dust. While a 7.0 magnitude earthquake might have claimed fewer lives on other occasions, it is thought that Haiti’s figures were great because most buildings had weak infrastructure. The fact that the calamity happened near the country’s capital city didn’t help much.

3. Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami in 2004

Sometimes, several natural disasters can occur simultaneously; the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004 are perfect examples. On the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, an earthquake of 9.1 magnitude brought everything to a standstill. Because the magnitude was so high, it triggered a massive tsunami, which swept through 12 East Africa and South Asia countries.

The tsunami was moving at an incredible speed of 800km/h, triggering waves up to 30 meters tall – the city of Banda Aceh was first hit. More than 200,000 people lost their lives, and property worth $10 billion was damaged.

4. Tangshan and Luanxian Earthquake in 1976

In 1996, at around 3 in the morning, the residents of Tangshan in China were woken up by a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Ritcher scale. Nearly 80% of the city was destroyed by this natural disaster, including roads, railway lines, and agriculture.

Chinese builders had not reinforced their buildings at the time, as is the case today. The country’s authorities initially reported that the number of casualties caused by the Tangshan earthquake was 655,000, but they later reduced this figure to 255,000. A few hours later, another 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Luanxian, northeast of Tangshan.

5. Haiyuan Earthquake in 1920

Unfortunately, China has been the victim of many natural disasters in history. On December 16, 1920, the city of Haiyuan was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude ranging from 7.8 to 8.7. It was so strong that it was felt in the neighboring towns of Shanghai and Beijing, with further reports claiming it reached Japan.

The disaster claimed 235,502 lives as millions were left homeless. Unlike any natural disaster ever experienced in Asia, the Haiyuan earthquake caused cracks in the Great Wall of China and triggered a series of landslides that covered entire villages.

6. Cyclone of Coringa in 1839

We added the Cyclone of Coringa to this list because it was the first to occur in human history. If anything, it was after this natural disaster that Henry Piddington, a member of the British East India, coined the word “cyclone.” In this case, cyclone referred to the coil of a snake, symbolizing when winds rotate inwards.

In the incident that happened on November 25, 1839, the city port of Coringa in India was hit by a massive cyclone that killed 300,000 people. It swept away the entire city and caused massive flooding that spread to neighboring villages.

7. Bhola Cyclone in 1970

In 1970, the residents of Bhola, modern-day Bangladesh, were struck by a category three cyclone. It was so strong that the winds reached a speed of up to 185km/h. The cyclone first hit the coast, killing around 500,000 people.

Additionally, given that the Bhola cyclone struck a city already struggling with corruption and poverty, the side effects were equally as tragic. Incompetent authorities didn’t know how to deal with the problem.

Things turned from bad to worse when, after the cyclone, the port city started flooding, increasing the number of casualties. The silver lining to this pandemic is that, since then, Bangladesh has reformed its politics, and the government has put in necessary measures to combat future disasters.

8. Tokyo-Yokohama Earthquake in 1923

On September 1, 1923, the area around the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 that led to the deaths of more than 140,000 people. The majority of the unfortunate loss of lives happened after buildings collapsed and fire spread to densely populated areas.

The earthquake also triggered a 12-meter tsunami in the Sagami Gulf city of Atami, causing more casualties. It took Japan years to recover both economically and physically from this disaster.

9. Kashmir Earthquake in 2005

About two decades ago, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 hit the Kashmir region, which touches Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. As a result, the landslides and falling rocks killed a total of 79,000 people. Official records also indicate that at least 30,000 buildings were affected.

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Last Update: June 20, 2024