The Ten Deadliest Natural Disasters in History

10. Great Tangshan earthquake

The Tangshan earthquake, also known as the Great Tangshan earthquake, was a natural disaster that occurred on July 28, 1976. It is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. The epicenter of the earthquake was near Tangshan in Hebei, People’s Republic of China, an industrial city with approximately one million inhabitants. The number of deaths initially reported by the Chinese government was 655,000, but this number has since been stated to be around 240,000 to 255,000.

9. 526 Antioch earthquake

The 526 Antioch earthquake hit Syria (region) and Antioch in the Byzantine Empire in 526. It struck during late May, probably between May 20–29, at mid-morning, killing approximately 250,000 people. The earthquake was followed by a fire that destroyed most of the buildings left standing by the earthquake. The maximum intensity in Antioch is estimated to be between VIII (Severe) and IX (Violent) on the Mercalli intensity scale.



8.  1970 Bhola cyclone

The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970. It remains the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded and one of the deadliest natural disasters. Death toll estimates go from 250,000 to 500,000 people lost their lives in the storm, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta. This cyclone was the sixth cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and also the season’s strongest.

7. 1920 Haiyuan earthquake

1920 Haiyuan earthquake occurred on December 16 in Haiyuan County, Ningxia Province, Republic of China. It was also called the 1920 Gansu earthquake because Ningxia was a part of Gansu Province when the earthquake occurred. Highest death toll estimates are 273,000.


6.  2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3. The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.


5. 1737 Calcutta cyclone

On 7 October 1737, a natural disaster struck the city of Calcutta  in India. For a long time this was believed in Europe to have been the result of an earthquake, but it is now believed to have been a tropical cyclone.Thomas Joshua Moore, the duties collector for the British East India Company in Calcutta, wrote in his official report that a storm and flood had destroyed nearly all the thatched buildings and killed 3,000 of the city’s inhabitants. Other reports from merchant ships indicated an earthquake and tidal surgewere to blame, destroying 20,000 ships in the harbor and killing 300,000 people. It should be noted that the population of Calcutta at the time was around 3,000–20,000.

4. 1839 India cyclone

On 25 November 1839, an enormous cyclone caused a 40-foot storm surge that hit Coringa, Andhra Pradesh, wiped out the harbor city, destroyed vessels in its bay, and killed 300,000 people. Survivors never entirely rebuilt the city.

3. 1556 Shaanxi earthquake

The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake was a catastrophic earthquake and is also the deadliest earthquake on record, killing approximately 830,000 people. It occurred on the morning of 23 January 1556 in Shaanxi, during the Ming Dynasty. More than 97 counties were affected. Buildings were damaged slightly in the cities of Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai. An 840-kilometre-wide (520 mi) area was destroyed, and in some counties as much as 60% of the population was killed. Most of the population in the area at the time lived in yaodongs, artificial caves in loess cliffs, many of which collapsed with catastrophic loss of life.

2. 1887 Yellow River flood

The 1887 Yellow River flood was a devastating flood on the Yellow River (Huang He) in China. This river is prone to flooding due to the elevated nature of the river, running between dikes above the broad plains surrounding it. The flood, that began in September 1887, killed about 900,000 people. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. Highest estimates of the death toll are about 2 million.

1. 1931 China floods

The 1931 China floods or the 1931 Yellow River floods were a series of devastating floods that occurred in the Republic of China. The floods are generally considered among the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded, and almost certainly the deadliest of the 20th century (when pandemics and famines are discounted). Estimates of the total death toll range from 145,000 to between 3.7 million and 4 million.


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