China Floods. Between July and August 1931, a series of devastating floods occurred in the Republic of China, causing high water marks at 53 feet above normal, and resulting in an estimated 4 million deaths. It is widely considered the most destructive natural disaster ever recorded. After the initial drownings, many more died from starvation or waterborne diseases like typhus or cholera.
The 1887 Yellow River Flood killed nearly a million people, and left two million homeless.
The Shaanxi earthquake in 1556 is the deadliest earthquake on record, killing around 830,000 people. Early in the morning on January 23, the tremblor ripped through 97 Chinese counties in a 520 mile wide swath. Entire cities were levelled, and in some counties as much as 60% of the population died. Most of the population at the time lived in artificial caves burrowed into cliff walls, many of which collapsed and resulted in the catastrophic loss of life.
A 1839 cyclone caused a 40-foot storm surge that hit Coringa, a harbour village near the mouth of the Godavari River on the Southeastern coast of India. The cyclone completely wiped out the town, destroyed all the vessels in its bay, and killed 300,000. The city has never entirely been rebuilt.
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was a massive event that caused deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in 14 countries. It began with an earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra that registered a magnitude of 9.3. The quake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along all the landmasses of the Indian ocean, inundating coastal towns with waves 100 feet high. It was the third largest earthquake ever recorded and had the longest duration ever observed – about 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska.
The 1920 Haiyuan earthquake in China caused 273,400 deaths. Entire cities were levelled as houses and buildings collapsed, and a mudslide buried at least one rural village. Many more died because of the cold – a severe winter killed many who had lived through the original assault.
The Great Tangshan earthquake happened on July 28, 1976 and is the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll, with up to half a million people killed. A further 164,000 people were reportedly severely hurt. Sixteen hours later, a major aftershock hit and increased the death toll by about 15,000 more.