Top 10 Worst Natural Disasters in History

Nature is giving us the environment necessary for our lives. Without nature, life would not be possible on planet Earth. But sometimes, nature can spin the ultimate vortex of destruction leading to great sufferings, loss of lives and incredible financial losses. Earthquakes, floods, volcano eruptions, fires, storms… all are much powerful than we are and do not have a real defense against them. Yes, we can make precautional measures but forces of nature will always be stronger. And the consequences can be really tragic. Here is the list of worst natural disasters in history.

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10. Antioch earthquake, 526 AD

antioch-earthquake-526-adPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

In 115 AD, strong earthquake hit area in Byzantine Empire called Antiochia and killed tens of thousands of people. 411 years later, another strong earthquake struck again. In late May, 526 AD, scene of apocalypse was there again. The earthquake magnitude is estimated to be 7. Because of the material of buildings, the death toll was huge. More than 250,000 people died. Almost all of the buildings were destroyed by the earthquake itself or by the following fire. Antioch earthquake is the oldest event on this list of worst natural disasters in Earth history.

9. Haiyuan earthquake, 1920

haiyuan-earthquake-1920Photo Credit: Disaster History

When the earthquake hit a heavily populated area, consequences are terrible. And when this area is not prepared for it, consequences are unimaginable. In 1920, no area in China was prepared for it. The great earthquake of 1920 destroyed 20,000 square kilometers and killed more than 200,000 people. Because the earthquake happened in the early years of Chinese civil war, little attention was given to it.

8. Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004

indian-ocean-tsunami-2004Photo Credit: IBTimesUK

You can probably remember those breaking news of December 26, 2004. At 00:58:53 UTC, a mega-strong earthquake with the epicenter undersea off the west coast of Sumatra struck. The third largest earthquake ever recorded and the longest one caused the whole planet to move as much as 0.4 inches. It created a tsunami that successively hit coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. The disaster killed 280,000 people from many countries and caused huge material losses. Tsunami of 2004 is the youngest of our list of biggest natural disasters world history.

7. Calcutta cyclone, 1737

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In 1737, a natural disaster hit the area around Calcutta in India. In Europe, it was believed that it was the earthquake. However, new findings show us that it was the tropical cyclone. It is often said that it killed more than 300,000 people. Truth is that this number is not verified and it is possible that it was later mixed-up with the death toll of the cyclone that hit India in the 19th century (No.6 on our list of biggest natural disasters world history).

6. India cyclone, 1839

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On 25 November 1839, a large cyclone hit the city of Coringa in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The city was almost completely destroyed and 300,000 people were killed. The city was never fully rebuilt. 102 years after the Calcutta cyclone, another deadly storm hit India.

5. Bhola cyclone, 1970

bhola-cyclone-1970Photo Credit: The Guardian

In 1970, another tropical cyclone struck East Pakistan (today´s Bangladesh). It is still considered to be the strongest cyclone ever recorded. The death toll from this disaster is somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000. The response of Pakistani authorities were heavily criticized and in a fundraising effort to help victims. The Concert for Bangladesh was organized by ex-Beatle George Harrison and Ravi Shankar. It is the deadliest cyclone in our list of the worst natural disasters in history.

4. Tangshan earthquake, 1976

tangshan-earthquake-1976Photo Credit: Britannica

From now on, we will describe only disasters that happened in China. It´s because the China is the most populated country in the world. That´s why top 4 of worst natural disasters in earth’s modern history were in that country. The city of Tangshan is located 70 miles east of Beijing and it was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake. Initial reports stated 242,000 deaths but the toll later raised to numbers as high as 655,000.

3. Shaanxi earthquake, 1556

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The earthquake struck on the morning of 23 January, 1556. 520 miles-wide area was destroyed and 60% of total population was killed in that area. An overall number of deaths was as high as 830,000 people making the Shaanxi earthquake the deadliest in history. One of the reasons for the record of record earthquake death toll among all of biggest natural disasters world history is fact, that many people in that area lived in artificial caves which collapsed because of the earthquake.

2. Yellow River flood, 1887

yellow-river-flood-1887Photo Credit: Martian Herald

As mentioned above, high death toll during natural disasters in China is given by its large population. And the density of population is especially high near the rivers. And one of the biggest of Chinese rivers is Huang-He or the Yellow river. In 1887, flood on this river caused the death of more than 1,000,000 people (some estimations say that the total amount of victims was 2,000,000). After this apocalyptic event, it was hard to believe that the Yellow river can do even worse. But it can…

1. Yellow River flood, 1931

yellow-river-flood-1931Photo Credit: FloodList

Number one among the worst natural disasters in history is the great flood of 1931 that affected Central China. Up to 4,000,000 people was killed during the flood. Pre-conditions were created during the winter season when heavy snowstorms followed by spring thaw and heavy rains raised the river levels. City of Nanjing (capital of China at that time) was completely surrounded by the water and desperate people were forced even to cannibalism.

Our list proved that nature is still the real master of our planet. Natural disasters can kill millions. And it should be mentioned that in this biggest natural disasters world history list, famines are not included.

Post Author: SparkInList Staff

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