World’s Deadliest Disasters

Posted: May 24, 2015 in Africa, China, Europe, Kenya, USA, World Untold Stories
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The world has witnessed numerous disasters over the centuries and although most are anthropogenic due to wars and terrorism, mother nature certainly dishes out her fair share of damage. There have been many natural disasters or “acts of God” that have stolen human lives and left destruction and havoc for the survivors. While there are many criteria as to what would be considered the “worst” natural disaster ranging from lives lost to cost incurred, the earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis you are about to witness are all horrific in their own right.  Here are the worst natural disasters ever recorded.

The Deadliest Earthquake in History
In July 5, 1201 in Egypt and Syria, the deadliest earthquake in recorded history struck. This disaster rocked the eastern Mediterranean and killed over 1.1 million people, destroying countless homes. Nearly every major city within the near east felt the effects of this quake.

Floods/ Landslides
After experiencing a severe drought from 1928 to 1931 in China, torrential rains suddenly appeared from July to August 1931. Because of this, the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Huai rivers flooded killing nearly 4 million people and affecting 51 million people by destroying the rice crops and creating famine and disease which ultimately killed even larger numbers of the population.

Chinese Famine
Over 20 million people died of famine from 1959 to 1961. This incident is debated as a natural disaster though and may in fact be a result of politics rather than decreased food production. This is because the Mao government reported inflated food production and then took 50 percent of the harvests. However, because the reported harvest was inflated, it resulted in the government taking the entire production leaving the people to starve.

The Nuclear Power Plant Explosion in Chernobyl, Russia
On April 26th 1986, the Chernobyl Plant in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had a major meltdown which resulted in the atmospheric release of radioactive material four hundred times more radioactive than Hiroshima. Since the accident there have been countless children with birth defects, a sickening increase of cancer sufferers and many other health issues as well. It is estimated that the disaster could result in nearly 100,000 fatal cancers, and the area won’t be safe for any activity, including farming for up to 200 years.

The Kuwait Oil Fires
The Gulf War oil spill is the largest oil spill in history making it one of the 10 worst man-made disasters of all time. In 1991, following the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein sent men in to blow up the Kuwait oil wells. They managed to set over 600 ablaze and these burned for over seven months. The oil spill that resulted from the fires caused considerable environmental damage.

The Iran Blizzard of February 1972 resulted in the deaths of approximately 4,000 people. A week-long period of low temperatures and winter storms, lasting from 3 to 9 February 1972, dumped more than 10 feet (3.0 m) of snow across rural areas in northwestern, central and southern Iran.

Southern Iran sustained as much as 26 feet (7.9 m) of snow, burying at least 4,000 individuals. According to some reports, there were no survivors in places like Kakkan or Kumar. This blizzard remains the deadliest in history.

Deadliest heat wave
The 2003 European heat wave was the hottest summer on record in Europe since at least 1540. France was hit especially hard. The heat wave led to health crises in several countries and combined with drought to create a crop shortfall in parts of Southern Europe. Peer-reviewed analysis places the European death toll at 70,000.

Volcano Eruption
The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, was one of the most powerful in recorded history and is classified as a VEI-7 event. The eruption resulted in a brief period of significant climate change that consistently led to various cases of extreme weather. Several climate forcings coincided and interacted in a systematic manner that has not been observed since, despite other large eruptions that have occurred since the early 20th century. The death toll recorded was 92,000.

London’s Killer Fog
With the advent of industry, London’s population was accustomed to seeing foggy, pollution laden air. In 1952 however, this pollution took a tragic turn. This winter, the weather was cold and residents burned more coal in their fireplaces to alleviate the chill. The smoke laced with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot, and left London encased in a black cloud of near total darkness and killed over 12,000 people.

Wildfires/ bushfires
The Peshtigo Fire was a forest fire that took place on October 8, 1871 in and around Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It was a firestorm that caused the most deaths by fire in United States history, with estimated deaths of around 1,500 people, possibly as many as 2,500.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. With a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, it is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. The earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. Death toll was estimated to be 280,000.

The Daulatpur–Saturia, Bangladesh tornado was an extremely destructive tornado that occurred in the Manikganj District, Bangladesh on April 26, 1989. It was the costliest and deadliest tornado in Bangladesh’s history. There is great uncertainty about the death toll, but estimates indicate that it killed around 1,300 people, which would make it the deadliest tornado in history.

The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on 12 November 1970. It remains the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times. Up 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

The Destruction of the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea, in Central Asia, used to be the fourth largest lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea, and Lakes Superior and Victoria. The Aral Sea was one of the four largest lakes at one point in time. However, in the 1960’s, the Soviet Union diverted the waters from the rivers that fed the lake to irrigation projects. The sea has now shrunk by 90 percent and the salt and sandstorms that the devastation created kill plant life and have negative consequences for hundreds of miles around.

War related disaster
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On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-45), an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another A-bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

The two bombings remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

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