The 7 Worst Natural Disasters in World History

1. 1931 China Floods. The 1931 China Floods, were arguably the most devastating natural disaster in all recorded history. The death toll is up for debate, with Chinese sources saying only about 145,000 people were killed during the flooding, but the western consensus is closer to 4 million people dead. Still, even if the Chinese sources are correct, the deaths of 145,000 people is a staggering loss of life. The flooding reached Nanjing, the old capital of China, and the damage done was catastrophic. Millions were killed, either from drowning, starvation, or waterborne disease. There are even disturbing accounts of cannibalism and people selling their wives and or children for food.

2. 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake. The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake was one of the most destructive natural disasters in history, as well as the deadliest earthquake that has happened in recorded history. As it happened 461 years ago, nobody can be quite sure what the magnitude of the earthquake was, but estimates put it around a magnitude of 8.0. While there have been many earthquakes of similar or higher magnitudes in more recent times, the death count blows all other earthquakes out of the running. The death count of this earthquake is an unbelievable 830,000 people killed. An area around 500 miles side was destroyed, not leaving any buildings or structures in-tact.

3. 1970 Bhola Cyclone. The 1970 Bhola Cyclone is the deadliest cyclone that was ever recorded. Despite not being the strongest cyclone to ever form, or even hit Bangladesh, it took the most lives. The death toll for the cyclone is hard to pin down, but estimates are between 250,000 and 500,000 people killed because of it. The storm surge obliterated villages and wiped out crops in those areas, leaving survivors homeless and starving. The most affected county of Bangladesh,Tazumuddin, lost 45% of its population of 167,000 to the storm. That’s over 75000 people killed in a single county.

4. 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the planet, clocking in at a magnitude between 9.1 and 9.3. The massive earthquake caused a series of tsunamis that hit the coast of pretty much every landmass that borders the Indian ocean. The waves of the tsunamis were recorded to each up to 100 feet high. In total, 14 different countries were affected, with a death count maxing out at 280,000 people killed. Roughly 1.74 million people lost their homes because of the combined destruction of the earthquake and the tsunamis.

5. 1975 Typhoon Nina. The 1975 Typhoon known as Nina is one of the more interesting catastrophes that has befallen China, because the death count of 229,000 people did not happen directly because of the storm. Don’t misunderstand, this storm brought nothing but devastation to the peoples of China, but that’s because it broke dams, which caused massive flooding and destruction to happen to the areas protected by the dams. Typhoon Nina destroyed 62 dams, causing over 1 billion USD in damage.

6. 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake. The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake was one of the more apocalyptic natural disasters to take place over history. The earthquake was a magnitude 7.9 which struck around noon, when many people were eating lunch. A lot of people were cooking meals over a fire when it happened, and because there were a lot of open fires when the earthquake started, many larger fires broke out. Some of the fires became so large that they became firestorms that swept across cities, burning everything to the ground. There was even a fire tornado that formed, burning 38,000 people that were taking shelter alive. There were reports of many people dying because their feet were stuck to melting tarmac, keeping them rooted in place as they either burned alive, or had a collapsing building fall on them. The fires took over two days to fully extinguish. All in all, about 143,000 people were killed.

7. 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii was a town located in ancient Rome which underwent one of the most horrifying natural disasters in history. It and the area surrounding it were destroyed on the year AD 79, when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The eruption shot tons of volcanic ash, pumice, and blisteringly hot volcanic gasses high into the air, which could be clearly seen for hundreds of miles around the area. As the day went on, the debris shot out from the eruption earlier began to fall onto the landscape. The ashes filled the air making it hard to breath; the pumice fell from the sky like lethal hail. Then the pyroclastic surge happened. You can think of a pyroclastic surge like an avalanche, but instead of snow and ice falling down a mountain causing damage, it’s super-hot volcanic gas and rocks flying down the mountainside at over 100 miles per hour. The surge destroyed everything and killed everyone, even if you were inside of a building, you were killed instantly by the super-heated gas. Estimates of the death toll were in the thousands. The ruins of Pompeii were buried by the remaining volcanic ash raining from the sky, millions of tons of ash covered the city. You can find the remains of people that were killed during the disaster completely in-tact still, preserved by the ashes.

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