Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters


A natural disaster is something that no one in their lifetime wants to experience. These disasters are extremely crushing, to those who are both affected directly, and even indirectly. You have probably seen coverage in the newspapers and on the television, showing media reports of these devastating times. One I remember like it was yesterday is the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

The definition of a natural disaster is a disaster that is caused by a natural threat, such as an earthquake, landslide, or a tornado. Because we as humans are extremely vulnerable to what Mother Nature throws our way, we don’t have the means of always being able to predict and plan for the next natural disaster. Here are the Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters, dating from centuries up until most recently.

10. Banqiao Dam Failure, 1975


The Banqiao Dam was built in order to hold back around 12 inches of rainfall each day. However, in August 1975, those who created the dam would realize it wasn’t enough. During this time a storm came, caused by a collision between a cold front and Super Typhoon Nina, that brought heavy rains. The rain was so heavy that 7.46 inches fell every hour. This added up to about 41.7 inches of rain each day. The dam failed because of sedimentation blockage and 15.738 billion tons of water was released within the next few days. Waves up to 23 feet high rushed down streets at 31mph and destroyed everything. After the water settled down, over 231,000 people were dead.

9. Haiyuan Earthquake, 1920

Standing as the 4th deadliest earthquake of all time, the Haiyuan earthquake was catastrophic. Seven provinces were affected by the disaster. On December 16, 1920, a 7.8 earthquake hit Ningxia, China. For three years after the earthquake, aftershocks continued. In just Haiyuan County, more than 73,000 people were killed.  The earthquake also caused landslides and large ground cracks, especially close to the epicenter of the earthquake. The earthquake was so strong that some rivers became dammed and others changed courses. Most of the homes and buildings were destroyed. Over 200,000 people were killed.

8. Tangshan Earthquake, 1976


The Tangshan earthquake happened on July 28, 1976. It is said to be the 20th century’s largest earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Tangshan, which is located in Hebei, China. The city was industrial and had about one million people living in it. The disaster struck early in the morning and lasted 10 seconds or so. It has been said that the earthquake was 7.8-8.2 magnitude. Not only did the earthquake kill, but the 7.8 magnitude aftershock increased the number of deaths. The earthquake was said to first have killed 655,000 people, but the number has been decreased to about 255,000 people.

7. Antakya (Antioch) Earthquake, 565 A.D.

The Antakya earthquake occurred in 565 A.D. There are not many details available today, but it was said to have hit on May 20. It left damage ranging between 1-24 million dollars. The earthquake caused about 250,000 deaths.

6. Indian Ocean Earthquake/Tsunami, 2004

On December 26, 2004, a day after Christmas, and undersea earthquake struck, with its epicenter off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Through the earthquake hit many different places, it was most felt in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand. This is the second largest earthquake recorded, reaching a magnitude of 9.1-9.3. It lasted between 8-10 minutes, and was so severe that the entire planet vibrated and other earthquakes were caused, such as those in Alaska. The earthquake and tsunami caused over 225,000 deaths.

5. India Cyclone, 1839

In 1839, an extremely large cyclone hit Coringa, India. It happened on November 25 when a 40-foot storm surge caused by the cyclone completely ruined a city. It wiped out everything that it came into contact to. Sadly, the city was never really rebuilt, 20,000 vessels that were docked in the city were destroyed. Over 300,000 people were dead once the storm surge went down.

4. Bhola Cyclone, 1970

After the Bhola Cyclone devastated croplands, cleanup efforts included attempting to salvage rice and other grains in order to avoid starvation.

After the Bhola Cyclone devastated croplands, cleanup efforts included attempting to salvage rice and other grains in order to avoid starvation.

The Bhola Cyclone hit East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh on November 12, 1970. It stands as the deadliest cyclone to ever have been recorded. Strong winds hit the region at 115mph and the storm was said to have reached the strength of a Category 3 hurricane. However, it wasn’t the winds that killed. Most of those who lost their lives during this natural disaster were killed because of the storm surge. It is said that up to 500,000 people were killed because of the heavy rain and flooding in many areas.

3. Shaanxi Earthquake, 1556

The Shaanxi earthquake stands as the deadliest earthquake ever. On February 14, 1556, an earthquake hit China. Its epicenter was in the Wei River Valley, and as many as 97 counties in places such as Henan, Shaanxi, Hebei, Anhui, and others were affected. In Huaxian, every building that stood was ruined and more than half of the people that lived there were killed. Some statistics show that some counties have up to 60% of their population killed. In all, more than 830,000 people died from the Shaanxi earthquake. Studies have shown that the earthquake’s magnitude was somewhere around 8. Because it was so strong, aftershocks were felt for nearly half a year later.

2. Yellow River Flood, 1887


The Yellow River, which is located in China, is extremely prone to flooding. In 1887, the Yellow River flooded and completely devastated about 50,000 square miles of land. The flood is said to have killed between 900,000-2,000,000 people. Farmers that lived and planted near the river had built small dikes that were, at one point, able to hold back water if it rained. However, the heavy rain that came much too quickly overpowered the dikes and the river flooded.

1. Central China Floods, 1931

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Occurring in 1931, the Central China Floods is said to be the deadliest natural disaster that has ever been recorded. It has since been called the greatest disaster to visit China. After a long drought, China was hit by seven cyclones, which brought inches and inches of rain. During the Central China Flood, three different rivers flooded-over, and up to 4 million people were killed because of the floods. Though there were dams built to hold back water in the Yangzte, Yellow, and Huai rivers, they were either poorly built or much too small.

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  1. The reason why china makes up so many of the top disasters is because they go by death count, and china is so highlyand densely populated that theyre going to have more casualties per square area than most other countries.

    • ok i take that back it wasn’t really deadly seeing as how the area was not very populated

  2. Ah. I witnessed a deadliest earthquake in 2005 that claimed 80k+ lives. The memory about is still fresh. This list scares me more.

  3. Armando XRZ. on

    Mexico's 8.1 earthquake in September 19, 1985 was a deadly one (5,000 to 30,000 deaths; no true numbers have been revealed).

    More than 400 buildings collapsed and another 3,000 where really damaged.

    2 to 4 square kms. area was affected.

    3.5 billion USD was the calculated damage.

    I consider it a deadly one because of such a small area affected and checking the time of the earthquake, 7:20 am. (8:30 – 9:00 am is the time to get to job), it wasn't that disastrous as if it could've been if the earthquake would've started one hour later.

    If you visit Mexico City and you go to downtown, there are still buildings at Juarez street that hasn´t been demolished because they could cause serious damage to other structures around, so they are hold by anti-earthquake systems, but inhabitable.

  4. Carmella the tsunami is on the list at #6..

    The list is about the deadliest disasters. Katrina did not kill more than 231,000 people and therefore did not make the list.

  5. what about the katrina thing in new orleans and the tasumi over in what ya call it there a couple years back…