Devastating natural disasters are a terrifying thing. Because they can be so unpredictable and so destructive, bad ones tend to claim many lives.
The most terrible thing about them however, is that they can strike at any moment without any sort of warning.
Some countries have far worse weather than others §and we typically see more deadly storms in those countries than anywhere else.
Because these types of storms cause so much damage to infrastructure and cause so much death, keeping an eye on where they’re occurring can help make us more capable of assisting those who need help.
In terms of the deadliest, here are the 10 natural disasters which have caused the most recorded devastation in history.
1 Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar
Considered to be the worst natural disaster ever recorded in Myanmar, Cyclone Nargis was extremely destructive. In May of 2008 the cyclone struck the coast of Myanmar, causing a powerful storm surge to travel up through the Irrawaddy Delta. Because the Delta is a heavily populated region of Myanmar, it hit them hard.
With an estimated death toll of 138,000, the Cyclone Nargis caused a massive crisis across the entire country.
Damages were estimated to be in the range of $10 billion, making it a very expensive disaster to recover from afterwards.
2 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone
If there’s any part of the world that’s had an unfortunate run of bad cyclones, it’s Bangladesh.
In late April of 1991 a tropical cyclone smashed into southeastern Bangladesh, killing nearly 140,000 people. The Chittagong region suffered the most from this storm, with the majority of deaths occurring there and somewhere around 10 million people being left homeless.
Luckily an American military task force was returning from the Gulf war and was able to divert their course to provide relief to over one million Bangladeshi people.
3 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami 2004
In late December of 2004, an extremely violent earthquake erupted off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Due to being quite far off shore, the quake itself did little more than create some heavy waves. But those heavy waves became the problem. Forming into a series of deadly tsunamis which struck not only Indonesia, but Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and several other countries. These tsunamis killed an estimated 230,000 people across all the countries they struck.
Although Indonesia was hit the worst by the disaster, this series of tsunamis was certainly not easy on the rest of the countries hit.
4 526 Antioch Earthquake
This particular disaster occurred over a thousand years ago in the Byzantine empire, in the part of the world that is now Syria.
Although it was a long time ago, the Byzantines were well known for keeping records and they estimated a death toll of nearly 250,000 people. The quake hit in the middle of May, causing a disaster among the ancient empire.
The most devastating part of this quake was the aftermath however, with an enormous fire erupting afterwards which caused even more death and destruction.
5 Coringa Cyclone 1839
India has had a bad history of being struck by devastating cyclones simply due to the weather in the Indian Ocean.
In November of 1839 a colossal cyclone created a surge in the ocean which struck Coringa, destroying the majority of the harbor city and killing roughly 300,000 people. The area was so wrought with devastation that the people opted to abandon the city rather than repair it.
To this day Coringa stands partly in ruin as a testament to the power nature has over us.
6 Bhola Cyclone 1970
Mid November 1970, an enormous tropical cyclone hit East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on the West Bengal.
The majority of the Ganges Delta was flooded in the storm and somewhere around 500,000 people were killed. The severity of this disaster prompted the Red Cross to better prepare itself to provide relief in the event of a catastrophic cyclone in the future. Because the area around the Indian Ocean is typically more susceptible to cyclones, over 200 cyclone shelters were built in Pakistan in case of another tragedy.
Due to these shelters, future cyclones that have struck the same area have caused far less damage and resulted in far less deaths.
7 The Great Tangshan Earthquake
China suffered one of the deadliest earthquakes in recorded history during July of 1976 near Tangshan.
Because the city was highly industrialized it had a very high population, which is likely what caused such an immense death toll.
Approximately 650,000 people were killed by the destruction brought on by this massive quake which only lasted for about 15 seconds.
However, there were several aftershocks as well which continued to increase the death toll.
The initial quake was recorded as being roughly an 8.0 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most severe earthquakes ever measured.
8 Shaanxi Earthquake
The deadliest earthquake ever recorded occurred in January of 1556 in the Shaanxi province of China.
Because fault lines run directly through China it is highly susceptible to earthquakes and has had several terrible quakes throughout its history. Shaanxi is considered the deadliest simply because of its colossal death toll of approximately 830,000 people.
The quake stretched out so vastly that it affected over 90 different counties and even damaged some buildings as far away as Beijing. At the epicenter of the earthquake the majority of structures were destroyed and it’s estimated that some counties lost over 50% of their total population from this disaster.
9 Yellow River Flood 1887
The Yellow River in China has been prone to flooding for many centuries. This is because the agricultural developments along it have lead to dikes being built to collect the water.
In the end the dikes disrupt the natural water levels and floods tend to occur. One of the worst floods occurred in September of 1887, drowning many farms and cities.
The flood is estimated to have covered a total area of 50,000 square miles at its peak and killed approximately 900,000 people.
Although this led to more safety measures being placed on the water levels along the Yellow River, it did not avoid damage from devastating future floods.
10 1931 China Floods
After having suffered from one massive flood which killed nearly 1 million people, China had suffered greatly to the wrath of their rivers already.
But mid summer in 1931, the Yangtze river began flooding for a considerable amount of time. The peak of the flood was in July and August but the flooding had been going on for a while at that point. This was caused by a buildup of various environmental factors. China had been having severe droughts for three years so when the rain started coming down it just didn’t stop.
That rain was probably heavily influenced by several cyclones which had struck the area as well.
In the end the flooding is estimated to have killed nearly 4 million people. This makes it by far the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded.
Perhaps some irony in the thought that most of these invovle the very thing that gives us life in the first place, water. Also a reminder that even in this modern age where we can reshape mountains and bend the very earth to our will, nature still has terrifying power.