World’s Deadliest Natural Disasters

Habish Ribin Haneef
Updated on


The world till now has witnessed many natural disasters. Among these, the effects of some disasters were not that critical but on the other hand, the aftereffects of some other disasters have been humongous. These natural disasters had complete devastation and took the lives and properties of many people. Some other natural disasters had frightening effects even vanishing the entire area where the disaster took place. The main problem is that most natural disasters occur with a small or no warning, which is the reason behind the devastation that occurs after these disasters. Yes, today we have warning and alarm systems for many natural disasters but the issue is that the formation of most natural disasters occurs too fastly leaving only a little time for these warning systems to warn the people before the disaster occurs. The term natural disaster refers to a major event caused by natural processes on the Earth that causes widespread environmental destruction and loss of life. In this blog, let’s see some earthquakes that completely devastated the place they occurred and had scary aftereffects.

Haiti Earthquake, 2010:


A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on 12 January 2010 at 16:53 local time. The earthquake was deadly as it took more than 220,000 lives and lead to the collapse of 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings. The epicentre of the earthquake was near the town of Leogane, Ouest department, approximately 25 kilometres west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The major destruction of the earthquake occurred in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and other cities near the epicentre. The earthquake also led to the collapse and damage of some notable buildings including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly Building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) too collapsed killing many including the head of the mission, Hedi Annabi. Millions were left homeless and this disaster is considered as one of the deadliest tragedies not only in Haiti but also in the entire world.

Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, 2004:

indian tsunami

This disaster is considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded in history. It took place just a day after Christmas in 2004 and so it is also called the “boxing day tsunami”. It all started early morning on 26 December 2004 at 7:59 AM when an undersea earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. The 9.1 magnitude scary earthquake triggered a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean and reached the shores of the countries near the epicentre within a few hours. The tsunami devastated countries including Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Maldives and it even reached the shores of Africa. It is estimated that the giant waves killed over 225,000 people across these countries and caused a huge financial crisis. Many lost their homes and even now there are families who are yet to recover from the grasp of this tragic event. Some locations reported that the waves had reached a height of 30 feet or more when they hit the shoreline. Indonesia was the most affected country with over 200,000 deaths followed by Sri Lanka where more than 30,000 death cases were reported there. The death toll was so massive because there were no tsunami warning systems then and many do not even know what a tsunami is. In India, the tsunami killed 10,749 people and 5,640 people were missing. This disaster proved that tsunami is not an exception for India too and since then tsunami warning systems were constructed.

Japan Tsunami, 2011:


The Japan tsunami of 2011 is considered as one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. This was recorded as the strongest earthquake ever occurred in Japan. This disaster is also known as the “Great East Japan Earthquake.” On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometers east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region, a northern part of the island of Honshu, Japan. The magnitude 9 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami reaching up to 40 meters high. According to the official report, 19,759 people died, 6,242 people were injured, 2,553 people went missing, and 450,000 people became homeless. The meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant during the tsunami made the disaster bad to worse. This nuclear disaster released toxic, radioactive materials into the environment forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes and businesses. The disaster severely crippled the infrastructure of Japan. A 2020 study found that Japan’s real GDP growth in the year following the disaster decreased by 0.47 percentage points because of the earthquake and its aftermath.

Tangshan Earthquake, 1976:


The Tangshan earthquake of 1976 is considered as one of the deadliest earthquakes ever occurred in China. The magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck on July 28, 1976, at 3:42 AM. The epicentre of the earthquake was the region around Tangshan, Hebei, China. According to the official report, 242,769 people died and 164,851 people got injured from this dreaded disaster. Within minutes, the earthquake destroyed the entire place collapsing 85 per cent of the buildings and most of the highway and railway bridges were seriously damaged.

Sichuan Earthquake, 2008:


The Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 is another chapter the Chinese will like to forget. The tragedy occurred on May 12, 2008, in the mountainous central region of Sichuan province in Southwestern China. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated the region and also caused the largest number of geohazards ever recorded including about 200,000 landslides and 800 quake lakes distributed over an area of 110,000 km2. It is estimated that 69,000 people lost their lives, 374,176 were injured, 4.8 million people became homeless, and 18,222 people went missing. The geohazards triggered by the earthquake were the reason for about one-third of the death toll. The 2008 Sichuan 

Earthquake was the deadliest earthquake to strike China since the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake and the 18th deadliest earthquake of all time. On November 6, 2008, the Chinese government declared that they will spend about 146.5 billion US dollars in the next three years to rebuild the areas and properties destroyed by the earthquake.

Pakistan Earthquake, 2005:

The Pakistan earthquake of 2005 is considered as the deadliest earthquake in South Asia and the disaster occurred on October 8 in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir. The 7.6 magnitude earthquake killed over 86,000 people and many were injured too. The intensity of the earthquake was also felt in India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China.

Bam Earthquake, 2003:

The Bam earthquake of 2003 occurred in the Kerman Province of Southeastern Iran at 5:26 AM on December 26. The earthquake caused huge devastation in Bam, Iran killing over 30,000 people and injuring up to 200,000 people. To help Iran to come out of this embarrassment, 44 countries sent in personnel to assist in relief operations and 60 countries offered assistance.

Haiyuan Earthquake, 1920:

The Haiyuan earthquake of 1920 is considered as the deadliest earthquake that occurred in China in the 20th century. The earthquake occurred on December 16 in Haiyun County and it also shook the neighbouring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. So that the Haiyun Earthquake is also called the “1920 Gansu Earthquake.” When the time this deadly earthquake took place, it was estimated to be 7.8 magnitude on the Ritcher scale, but today the Chinese government claims that the earthquake actually had a magnitude of 8.5. The deadly quake took the lives of over 273,400 people and to make the situation worse massive landslides also took place. It was the region’s high deposits of unstable loess soils that triggered these huge landslides and over 30,000 deaths in the death toll were due to these landslides.

Bhola Cyclone, 1970:

The Bhola cyclone of 1970 is the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded and is one of the worst natural disasters of all time. The cyclone occurred on November 11, 1970, in Bangladesh (East Pakistan then) and India’s West Bengal. The cyclone was formed on November 8 over the central Bay of Bengal and travelled to the north. The cyclone reached its peak on November 10 and made landfall on the coast of East Pakistan on the following afternoon. The very next day situation became worst as the cyclone showed its real power. The deadly cyclone took the lives of around 300,000-500,000 people and the lack of evacuation made the situation worst. The storm’s highest wind speed measured 205 kph and a 35-foot storm surge washed over the low-lying islands bordering the Bay of Bengal, causing huge flooding. The Bhola cyclone also caused damage of US dollars 86 billion.

Coringa Cyclone, 1839:

The Coringa cyclone of 1839 is considered as the deadliest storm ever recorded in history after the Bhola cyclone of 1970. The cyclone occurred on November 25, 1839, in the port city of Coringa, Andhra Pradesh, India (British India then). The Coringa cyclone is also known as the “1839 India cyclone” and “1839 Andhra Pradesh cyclone.” The dreaded cyclone caused massive flooding killing over 300,000 people. The cyclone also destroyed many ships and washed out many houses. The port city of Coringa was entirely destroyed and was not rebuilt further.

Yangtze River Floods, 1931:

The Yangtze river floods also known as the Yangtze-Huai river floods or China floods occurred from June to August 1931 in China devastating major cities in China like Wuhan and Nanjing. The main cause of the flood was excessive rainfall (600 millimeters of rain) coupled with spring snowmelt. As a result of this, the Yangtze river overtopped its banks causing humongous flooding. The flood inundated almost 180,000 square km making the Yangtze look like a huge lake or ocean. The Yangtze flood is one of the deadliest natural disasters in history taking the lives of over 2 million people and the cholera epidemic in the very next year made the situation even worse. A total of 100,666 cases of cholera were reported and the epidemic killed more than 30,000 people.

Yellow River Flood, 1887:

yellow river

The yellow river flood of 1887 is considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters that devastated China. A series of dikes were built to contain the river as it flowed through the farmland of Central China. The dikes gradually silted up, raising the river gradually. In September 1887, due to heavy rainfall, the river flowed above these dikes into the surrounding low-lying land inundating 12,949 square km. This caused massive flooding and as a result of this disaster, more than 930,000 people lost their lives and over 2 million people became homeless. A pandemic too occurred after this heavy disaster making the yellow river flood of 1887 as one of the deadliest natural disasters after the Yangtze river flood of 1931.


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