These are the deadliest, most brutal natural disasters in history. From earthquakes to tsunamis & hurricanes, you’d never believe these violent, destructive acts of nature.
From earth-shattering quakes to twisted tornadoes, these are the 10 worst natural disasters in history. You won’t even think about messing with mother nature after watching this video.
10: The 526 Antioch Earthquake
May, 526 AD: the Byzantine Empire—located in the present-day Mediterranean region—is hit hard by a deadly earthquake. An estimated 250,000 people died during this natural disaster.
Founded sometime during the 4th century BC, Antioch was a city located in a particularly precarious place. It was situated near a number of tectonic plates including the African Plate, the Arabian Plate, & the Anatolian Plate. The area has been the site of many powerful earthquakes over the past couple millennia. And on that fateful day in May 526 AD, thousands of visitors poured into the city for Ascension Day when it was rocked by an earthquake that would measure by today’s standards as a 7.0 on the surface wave magnitude scale.
Most of the houses & buildings were either damaged or completely destroyed in the immediate aftermath with fires burning for days. Antioch also experienced a series of aftershocks for more than a year following the quake. When all was said & done, at least a quarter of a million people were killed & the city’s great cathedral, Domus Aurea, was badly damaged. Although much of the city was rebuilt, earthquakes continued to damage the city. Yet none of them were as deadly as that in 526.
9: The 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake
December 16th, 1920: a powerful earthquake in Haiyuan County, China & its surrounding area claims the lives of 273,400 people. Following the initial quake was a landslide that buried the entire village of Suijah, killing over 70,000 people in Haiyuan County.
The earthquake was felt in no less than seven provinces in China, ranging from the Yellow Sea to the Sichuan Province. The area was also terrorized by aftershocks for years after. As a result, people resisted building permanent buildings. Additionally, that same winter was especially harsh, causing even more people to die & further increasing the death toll.
8: The Tri-State Tornado
March 18th, 1925: the deadliest tornado in American history strikes the midwestern U.S. The tornado in question was actually part of a tornado outbreak, wherein 12 tornados touched down in Illinois, Indiana, & Missouri, injuring over 2,000 people & causing an excess of $1.4 billion in damages in the process.
The largest tornado measured in was an F5 & killed 695 people. After making landfall in Missouri & claiming its first life in the town of Ellington, the twister then surged towards the small town of Cornwall, where it killed 11 more people. It then made it’s way across the Mississippi River into Illinois. It leveled every single structure in the town of Gorham, killing 34 others in the process. In De Soto, 69 people were killed as it ripped through their town. By the time it made its way through Illinois, over 600 people had been killed. The mammoth twister then continued its destructive path in Indiana, where it took over 70 more lives before it was finished.
In addition to the casualties & injuries, the tornado destroyed the homes of approximately 15,000 people & obliterated nine schools over a three-hour period.
7: The 2010 Haiti Earthquake
January 12th, 2010: Haiti & the Dominican Republic experience a massive earthquake, killing an estimated 300,000. This is one of the poorest regions in the world & as such, was not sufficiently equipped for dealing with such disasters.
At least 32 aftershocks occurred within hours of the first earthquake, further damaging the already weakened structures. This included hospitals & large shelters that would’ve been helpful in responding to the emergency. Damage to the Toussaint Ouverture International Airport & the Port-au-Prince Seaport delayed essential emergency responders, who could not get onto the island. Because many people’s houses were destroyed, survivors resorted to sleeping in the streets, cars, or makeshift shelters during the nights following the disaster. To this day, the recovery effort is still ongoing, though progress has been slow.
6: The 1970 Bhola Hurricane
November 12th, 1970: a series of hurricanes hammers the North Indian Ocean, the largest & most devastating of which was in Bangladesh & India’s West Bengal. More than 500,000 people were killed during this deadly storm.
As soon as the storm hit land, it destroyed entire villages & crops in what was then part of Pakistan (or present-day Bangladesh.) The majority of the area’s populace was either unaware or unprepared for the storm when it hit. As a result, it had one of the deadliest effects on the people despite not being the most powerful storm to afflict the region.
Tsunamis hit small coastal islands near East Pakistan, reportedly killing every single resident. Heavy rains also caused widespread flooding, claiming even more lives and damaging more property. In addition to the half a million lives lost, more than 3 million people were affected by the storm in one way or another. Roughly 85% of homes in the region were destroyed, causing approximately $86.4 million worth of damage. To this day, it is the deadliest tropical cyclone of all time.
5: The 2005 Kashmir Earthquakes
October 8th, 2005: the Pakistani territory of Azad Kashmir is rattled by the deadliest earthquake in its history, killing more than 87,000 people, injuring another 130,000, & displacing more than 3 million people. Surrounding areas in Afghanistan, China, & Tajikistan were hit as well.
Situated near the Eurasian & Indian Tectonic plates, Kashmir was already a hotbed for seismic events. This particular quake registered at a 7.6 magnitude & destroyed the majority of buildings & infrastructure in the area. Since many of the residents were observing Ramadan, they happened to be in their homes when it hit. As a result, many were trapped under rubble after their homes were destroyed. Additionally, communication lines were badly damaged, making it difficult to coordinate rescue attempts.
Nearly 1,000 aftershocks occurred in surrounding regions weeks following the first quake. As it turns out, the Himalayan mountain region is still rising due to the movement of these tectonic plates & it is this same movement that caused the destructive earthquakes.
4: The 1976 Tangshan Earthquake
July 27th, 1976: the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century strikes the Chinese province of Tangshan, killing between 250,000-650,000 people. Lasting only 14 seconds, it registered as an 8.2 on the richter scale. Hours later, a strong aftershock shook the area again.
It was early in the morning just after 4 am when the quake struck, so many people were still asleep in their homes at the time. Further complicating the situation was the location of Tangshan. It was not thought to be a place where severe seismic activity would occur. Therefore, the structures were not designed to withstand such a powerful earthquake. Many people died when their houses collapsed on top of them. The Chinese government decided not to accept any kind of foreign aid, relying only on themselves to rebuild. Tangshan was eventually rebuilt though and today, is home to almost 3 million people as well as a monument for the victims of the 1976 earthquake. The city has become known as the “Brave City of China.”
3: The 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake
The 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people in January of that year. It destroyed everything within a 520-mile area, killing up to 60 percent of the population in some towns.
The Ming Dynasty ruled China at the time & many people were living in artificial caves called yaodongs near the area of the Loess Plateau. This was one of the reasons the death toll was so high. The quake sparked landslides & the caves were destroyed, killing most of the people who were inside of them. Modern estimates suggest it would have registered at about a 7.9 or 8, meaning earthquakes of far greater magnitudes have killed far fewer people. But due to the society’s infrastructure & the fact that it struck late at night & again early in the morning, it proved to be extremely deadly.
After the earthquake, the Ming Dynasty instituted a new method of building structures. Instead of making houses from stones, they began using softer materials such as bamboo & wood to minimize the damage in the event of an earthquake.
2: The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami
December 26th, 2004: a violent earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggers massive tsunamis, killing over 230,000 people & causing many more to go missing. The earthquake registered as a 9.3 on the richter scale, making it the third largest quake ever recorded. Lasting more than eight minutes, it is also the longest earthquake ever recorded. In fact, it was so powerful it shook the entire planet, with aftershocks being felt as far away as Alaska.
With the epicenter of the quake being roughly 100 miles off the Indonesian coast, it also sparked a series of massive tsunamis. One of these was a reported 80 feet high when it hit land while other reports indicated another 100-foot tidal wave. Many of the people living on the islands & coastlines were taken by surprise since there was no tsunami warning system in place to alert people of the danger. The tsunamis were so extensive, they affected many different islands & coastal regions all across the Indian Ocean, including Sumatra, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, & the Maldives. A smaller tsunami even reached South Africa, killing eight people there. All in all, 14 different countries were affected by the earthquake & tsunami.
In addition to the more than 200,000 lives lost were 1.78 million people displaced from the disaster. This prompted an enormous worldwide charity campaign as people all across the globe pitched in to help out. People’s generous worldwide donations raised a collective $14 billion during this extensive relief effort.
1: The 1931 China Floods
In 1931, a series of floods from the Yangtze & Huai Rivers in China caused the deaths of millions of people. As such, it holds the distinction of being the deadliest natural disaster of all time. Over 28 million people were affected by the floods in one way or another.
In the years leading up to the floods, China had been experiencing a severe drought. Then in 1931, an unusual amount of hurricanes occurred in the region. Areas near the rivers began flooding due to the increased amounts of rain. The Yangtze & Huai Rivers overflowed as a result & the flooding soon reached Nanjing, the capital city at the time. Millions of people died from drowning & later on, from starvation as many of their crops & food sources were destroyed.
Flash floods also claimed the lives of many. In August 25th of that year, for example, an estimated 200,000 people in their sleep when the dams of the Grand Canal broke, causing water to come rushing out. In the end, it proved to be the deadliest natural disaster of the 20th century & among the worst in the history of human civilization.