Compiled by David B. Hall
The world has seen many
disasters over the
years. Many were caused by people -
wars, terrorists... Others are sometimes referred to as "acts of
God". It's very difficult to rank them because there are
ways of defining "worst" (some would just count the dead, others
would include the injured, still others would measure in terms of the
dollars required to repair the damages, or somehow calculate the damage
environment...) and there are different ways of defining "natural".
the following is a substantial list of some of the world's worst
natural disasters. All of these disasters took more than
25,000 lives. 43 of these disasters took over 100,000 lives (see
second disaster list near the end for death toll rank).
These 66 are
sequentially, not by amount of lives lost or damage done. Some may have
other situations which COULD be included in preference to some of
these. Note also,
we're only going back less than 900 years here, because there's little
record to document natural disasters prior to that.
Also note that
many figures are only rough estimates. As we have seen recently, after
so many thousands, many people assisting with the disaster relief stop
keeping accurate records - they're just too overwhelmed, too tired, too
busy doing what has to be done and still survive themselves, that
keeping detailed records ceases to
be a priority for them. In some cases government authorities for
various reasons have tried to hide the true figures (see 1976, China
below); other situations involve more deaths from the "aftermath", so
there are different reports given by different sources.
The TEN Worst Natural Disasters in the last thousand years
(not counting malaria) - each with a million or more deaths -
coded. These ten combined resulted in over one hundred million
- mostly through famine or plague.
What lessons can be learned from this
Syria, Aleppo - 1138
Earthquake kills 230,000 people
A famine wipes out at least 100,000 people.
history hit the eastern Mediterranean in July 1201. Approximately 1.1 million
killed, mostly in Egypt and Syria. This makes it close to one of the ten worst
disasters in recorded
Estimate: 100,000 lives lost from the flooding after
some dykes broke.
The Zuider Zee flooded after a seawall callapsed. At least 50,000
people were killed in Holland and more than 500 in England as a
Earthquake takes at least 100,000 people.
of Europe and beyond, 1347-1350
million lost their lives through the "Black
Death" - the bubonic plague. Between 25 and 33% of
entire population of Europe at that time, plus
millions in Asia and North Africa lost their lives.
Earthquake in Shansi, China kills about
Flooding takes about 300,000 lives.
Plague takes about 80,000 lives in Seville.
Hemisphere, mostly 16th - 18th centuries
Untold millions of lives of
American Indians were lost through the various sicknesses brought over
from Europe (to which they had no previous exposure or resistance.)
It's very difficult to get figures on this that are not politically
infected one way or another (very high or very low).
The second deadliest earthquake
was in the
Chinese province of Shaanzi on February 2, 1556. It killed 830,000 people.
More than 100,000 lives were taken by the plague, London was worst hit.
Earthquake took the lives of some 137,000 people.
to be an earthquake, but more recent scientific studies have
as a typhoon - this tragedy killed some 300,000 in Calcutta.
lost their lives through "the Lisbon earthquake"
ten million people lost their lives from a famine
North America, 1775-82
Smallpox takes around 130,000 lives.
As many as 200,000 were killed in an earthquake near Tabriz.
a volcanic eruption (that
included the largest basalt flow in recorded history) poisoned the
island's pastures and caused the starvation of about 25% of
the population - 30,000+.
Mount Tambora (volcano) on Sumbawa Island released about 50 cubic
of magma over at least 500,000 square kilometers of Indonesia and the Java Sea. That eruption and the
tsunami took at least 10,000 lives. But the famine and
followed took another 82,000 lives - total: over 90,000.
Tsunami kills about 27,000.
Ireland, 1845 - 48
"Potato Famine" takes at least a million
Germany, America, etc., 1870
approximately 500,000 lives lost as a result of smallpox.
China, 1876 - 1879
deadliest drought in
recorded history was in China between 1876 and 1879. Rivers were dry, so most
livestock died. There was no food production in a
1-million km2 area of 9 provinces. The drought caused the
death of an estimated nine
and Sumatra, 1883
Krakatoa, a small volcano on an
island between Sumatra and Java (Indonesia),
such fury it could be heard in Australia nearly 5,000 kilometers
tsunami that followed took about 50,000 lives.
The worst flood in
happened in China in 1887. The Yellow River overflowed, causing the death of about 900,000
people. (Some reports say it was a million that parished.)
About 28,000 people lost their lives from a Tsunami
Martinique, a small French colony
in the Caribbean, has a volcano "Mont
Pelee" which unleashed its fury and wiped out the town of St. Pierre. Only one survivor -
pictured on right: a
prisoner in a
basement cell. (There's a good chance he got his life right with God
before that day was over!) But there were actually
two others who also survived. see
their amazing stories Around 30,000 people were
magnitute and the tidal wave that resulted, destroyed several
southernmost Italian cities
and approximately 123,000 people.
River flood - approx: 100,000 deaths.
Avezzano, Italy - 7.5 earthyquake takes
World-wide, 1918 - 19
pandemic takes somewhere between 35 million and 75 million
lives (some reports estimate around a hundred million, but those can't
be confirmed) - at least 16 million people died in India alone. This is clearly the worst
disaster - at least in the last thousand years.
In the north China
there was a drought that caused 20
million victims and took at least 500,00 lives.
China, Gansu - 1920
Gansu, China is hit with an earthquake
8.6 and kills around 200,000 people.
A third of Tokyo is
destroyed and much of Yokohama in
an 8.3 earthquake which between 140,000 and 200,000
hit Nanshan City and took about 200,000
A flood on the Changjiang River
took at least 145,000 people (other estimates go over a
million, but we have not confirmed that).
this one northwest Gansu Province, killed about 70,000 people.
Another Yellow River
flood "caused 27 counties
inundated and 3.4 million victims". How many actual lives
were killed we don't know. If you have facts, let us hear from you
Another Changjiang River
flood takes the lives of at least 140,000 people.
lost their lives in a 7.5 earthquake.
people were killed from an 8.3 earthquake in Chile.
A flood takes about 200,000
More than 32,000
lives were lost from a 7.9 quake in Erzican
A drought in the Henan
province took the lives of more than a million
Turkmenistan (USSR), 1948
A 7.3 earthquake
took over 110,000 lives.
people lost their lives in a quake of 8.6 magnitude in Assam, India.
At least a hundred thousand people (some reports say over a
died from the "Asian Flu" - about 70,000 in the USA
China, 1958 - 61
many as 20 million people died in this famine. *
received the following response to this post
Sirs: I would ask that you consider
re-characterizing the 20-30 million who died in China during the period
1959-61 as a political blunder rather than a famine. Famines are
typically understood to be the result of diminished food production due
to weather or other natural disasters. This was not the case in China.
Food production was for the most part normal during this period. What
changed was the desire of local cadre wanting to look good and
reporting increased food production following Mao's politics of "right"
practices. Mao's government simply took their share of the harvest,
50%. But since the reported harvest was in fact inflated, what resulted
was the entire production being shipped to Beijing. This more
accurately could be labeled Mao's Holocaust. Respectfully, Doug Searles
A 7.9 earthquake
resulting landslides killed about 66,000 in Northern Peru.
19 - Bangladesh, 1970
In 1970, a cyclone and related
about 500,000 people.
With winds of up to 230 km/h, the
crashed into the heavily populated coastal area of the Bay of Bengal, where
several river deltas normally provide fertile land. The terrible winds
massive waves, which wiped out many entire villages. Millions of people
left homeless in this country that is one of the most densely populated
of the poorest in the world.
River flood flood leaves
about 100,000 dead.
China, Tangshan - 1976
The worst earthquake damage in
modern times was in
northeast China in 1976. It was July 28 when a massive quake,
measuring 8.3 on
the Richter scale, shook the industrial mining city of Tangshan. Officially 255,000 people died, and
were severely injured. But others (unofficial, but perhaps more
accurate?) estimate that about 655,000
Some ninety per cent of the buildings were destroyed. It took at least
years and massive investment to rebuild the city.
Africa, 1981 - 1984
dried up from the drought that had incredible impact on twenty African nations.
During one season about 20,000 were starving to death EACH
million were facing starvation if help didn't come right away.
around the world began to respond to this crisis - but for hundreds
thousands of people, it was too late. (If you have figures for
this, please let us know. When
combined with other relatively recent African famines, the fugure is well
Ruiz claimed the lives of at least 25,000 - mostly from the
mudflow which resulted from the volcanic eruption.
An earthquake measuring 6.9 on
devastated Armenia in 1988. At that time Armenia was a republic of the Soviet Union. The town of Spitak was
destroyed and it
took the lives of all of its residents. In Leninakan, Armenia's second largest city, eighty per cent of the
collapsed, and over 100,000 people perished there.
7.7 earthquake in
northwest Iran killed at least 50,000
Flooding again took
its toll on this nation. About 139,000 lost their lives.
North Korea, 1995-98
Over 3 million are said to have died
from famine and floods
in North Korea.
About 25,000 loose their lives from a meningites outbreak.
Bam, Iran, officially kills 26,271 people.
South Asian Nations, 2004 - 2005
the resulting tsunami creates one of the world's worst
It does major damage to: Indonesia, India,
Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Maldives, Somalia,
Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh, and Andaman. Deaths: Between
235,000 and 285,000.
South Asia, 2005
affecting Pakistan, but also India and Afganistan. Current
figures: over 50,000 dead.
Earthquate - still counting. Most estimates now exceed 220,000 dead.
1 - Worldwide, every
Malaria takes 2
to 5 million lives. *
11 Extra - No charge
Smallpox killed more than 15,000
people (one-third of
"The Great Hurricane" as it was
known, hit the Caribbean in October
1780. It is still the most deadly Western Hemisphere hurricane on record. It
killed some 22,000 people on the islands of Martinique, St. Eustatius, and Barbados...
Cholera epidemic spreads from Cairo and
hits both London and Paris very
hard, leaving about 25,000 dead.
fire destroyed much of Wisconsin: 9 towns and 1,500
the earthquake that struck in Golcuk killing
about 17,000 people.
most famous -- and deadliest -- earthquake
the United States was the San Francisco earthquake
of 1906. The estimation was 8.3 on
the Richter scale, but worse than the shaking itself, the earthquake
fires that burned out of control for three days. Two
thirds of the city
down, and totally wiped out the downtown business district. Tens of
of people lost their homes and fled the city and an estimated 3000
Depression the American and Canadian
experienced an eight-year drought. It ruined once-fertile soil, kicked
tremendous dust storms and caused thousands of deaths. The lack of rain
huge areas of farmland without any water. The topsoil was taken up by
creating huge dark clouds of dust that seemed to turn day into night.
died of starvation and lung diseases caused by breathing in the
air. Thousands of farmers had to declare bankruptcy. 350,000
the region. It was the worst drought in North American history.
China suffered another massive flood from
exceptionally heavy rains.
At one point, 40 centimeters fell in two days. The worst of the
occurred at Tai Hu, a lake at the mouth of
the Yangtze River. This important industrial and agricultural
devastated. The economic loss and the human toll were costly - over 2,000
people died. In one province, a million homes were swept away.
the flood seriously impacted the lives of over 200 million
costly hurricane in American history was
Andrew. 58 people were killed and so many homes and
the total cost was at least $27
dollars, this ranks as the worst natural disaster.
USA and Canada, 1993
Because of the media it
became known as "The Storm of
Century" - from snow blizzards of artic air clashing with
from the gulf of Mexico, combined with strong winds and freezing
it essentially paralyzed the Eastern part of the U.S. Roofs
lines fell, all major airports closed down... Summary of the
deaths, $3 billion.
Global, about 3200 BC
evidence exists for a major
paleoclimate event that happened
around 3000 B.C. It appears to
affected sea-level changes, vegetation and
much surface chemistry.
speculation that this event is in fact the Biblical Flood of the Old
Testament. Scientists naturally avoid
equating 'natural' disasters
with 'Acts of
in this case the time coincidence is very suggestive." - Selection
Chair and Professor of Geophysics...
* "We had
in the sixties thanks to DDT. Since Rachel Carson's book "Silent
Spring" inspired the DDT ban, 60-70 million have died of malaria.
It's hard to find anyone who cares more about a couple million deaths a
year from malaria than about 4 birth defects a year that the use of DDT
might cause." Arthur Henry
Tips - by Doug Copp
Be Ready -
Homeland Security and
Christian Emergency Network encourage people to be ready
The Big One - What would
if The Big One came?
Are you ready? - by David Hall
What to do
when your world crashes - Ten things you can do
Major Catastrophes - Each of these natural disasters has taken over
a million lives - 6 of them in the last 85 years
US Dept. of the
Online, Fox News,
Reuters, David Crossley, World
Commission on Dams, David
McCormick, The Times-Picayune, San
State University Geological Sciences, University of
|44 Disasters of over 100,000 Deaths
|1 - Worldwide, every
to 5 million a year
|2 - Western
Hemisphere, mostly 16th - 18th centuries
|3 - Africa, 1981 - 1984
|4 - World-wide, 1918
||35 to 100 million
|5 - Europe and beyond, 1347-1350
|6 - China, 1958 - 61
|7 - India, 1769
|8 - China, 1876 - 1879
|9 - North Korea,
||3 million +
||Famine and Floods
|11 - Egypt
|12 - Ireland, 1845 -
||1 million +
|13 - China,
||1 million +
|14 - China, 1887
|15 - China, 1556
|16 - China, 1976
|17 - China, 1920
|18 - France,
Germany, America, etc., 1870
|20 - World-wide, 1957
|21 - India, 1737
|22 - China,
|23 - South Asia, 2004
|Tsunami / Earthquake
- Syria, Aleppo, 1138
|25 - Iran, 1780
|26 - China,
|27 - China, 1927
|28 - China,
|29 - Japan, 1923
- China, 1931
- China, 1933
- Bangladesh, 1991
|33 - Japan,
- North America, 1775-82
|35 - Italy, 1908
- Turkmensistan (USSR), 1948
|37 - Armenia, 1988
|38 - Japan
|39 - China, 1290
- Netherlands, 1228
|Flooding from broken
- England, 1665
|42 - Portugal, 1775
|Tsunami / Earthquake
- Vietnam, 1971
|44 - Haiti, 2010