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Nobody prepares you for natural disasters.

They happen unexpectedly and without warning, leaving behind a trail of distraction.

It takes years for countries affected by the worst natural disasters in history to recover from the destruction.

Some of the natural disasters that have hit various parts of the world in recent years include; tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. 

Helpful Links: Disaster Preparedness Kit

Disaster Prediction: Advancements in the World of Science

Innovations in the world of science have enabled scientists to predict some natural disasters in advance.

This gives people living around and close to the flagged areas sufficient time to shift before the biggest natural disasters happen. Sometimes when the predicted disasters aren’t severe, all the residents will need to do is to take shelter and be cautious. 

Predicting natural disasters in the world was impossible in the past and the aftermath would be mass casualties.

Some of the most famous natural disasters are a clear indication of the tremendous power of the earth’s geology and atmospheric conditions.

Let’s look at some of the top 10 recent natural disasters in the world. 

Video – Worst Natural Disasters in History

1. The 2010 Haiti Quake

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake that has since been listed in one of the top 10 natural disaster lists in the world hit Haiti. The earthquake was so massive that estimating the casualties was a difficult task.

A year after the worst natural disaster happened, the Haitian government estimated that the quake’s magnitude was 7.0. 

The government went on to report that the disaster claimed the lives of 230,000 people. Government officials, however, would later in 2011 revise that figure to 316,000 lives lost after the aftermath.

The figures were highly disputed in a study published in 2010, which placed the number at 160,000 deaths. 

Another report would revise the number downwards to between 46,000 and 85,000. The variations in the number of casualties displayed the difficulties incurred in counting the fatalities.

Critics in Haiti claimed that the government increased the death toll to secure additional international aid. 

2. Cyclone Idai 2019

Cyclone Idai, a category 2 storm hit Beira city in Mozambique on March 14, 2019. The cyclone is one of the most deadly natural disasters experienced in the country.

It was accompanied by strong winds and heavy rains which resulted in flash flooding, tremendous destruction of crops and property, and numerous deaths. 

On April 25, 2019, less than six weeks later, the country was again hit hard by Cyclone Kenneth. This time the northern part of Mozambique approximately 600 miles north of Idai’s collision area was affected.

Tragic flooding resulting from the two worst disasters in history affected approximately 2.2 million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, leaving behind a trail of unparalleled amounts of damage. Cyclone Idai formed in the Mozambique Channel between the country and Madagascar. 

Magnitude of Storms

Storms that form here are hardly as strong as those that develop east and north of Madagascar. However, Cyclone Idai was bolstered by warm water temperatures.

The tropical Cyclone Keneth developed at the Mozambique Channel north of Madagascar. It was bolstered by warm sea temperatures which strengthened it to a category 4 storm from category 1 in a record 24 hours before making landfall on the 25th of April 2019. 

3. 2018 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami

A large shallow earthquake hit Minahasa Peninsula, Indonesia on the 28th of September 2018. The Quake’s epicenter was located in central Sulawesi at the hilly Donggala regency.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was located up to 77 km away from the capital Palu and its effects were felt far off in Samarinda along the East Kalimantan and stretched to Tawau Malaysia. 

Before the event which would later go down as one of the worst disasters in history, a series of foreshocks were experienced. So massive were they such that a 6.1 magnitude tremor occurred before the quake. After the main shock, a tsunami alert which would later be called off was issued from Makassar Strait. 

A Large and Destructive Disaster

At the same time, the deadliest tsunami in history hit Palu and swept buildings and houses it encountered along the way. The tsunami and the earthquake left behind approximately 4,340 people dead. Experts later described the earthquake as one of the largest natural disasters to ever hit the country since the Yogyakarta earthquake that struck in 2006. 

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics later confirmed that the deadliest tsunami estimated to be between 4 to 7 meters had been triggered, sweeping away settlements in Donggala, Palu, and Mamuju. The aftermath of the earthquake was soil liquefaction in areas around Pal which led to mudflows in two areas. As a result, buildings were submerged leading to more deaths and missing people. 

4. Hurricane Maria 2017

Hurricane Maria was one of the worst natural disasters in US history. The category 5 hurricane which struck Dominica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 2017 also went down as one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.

The hurricane left behind calamitous destruction and a trail of fatalities throughout the northeastern Caribbean. This complicated recovery efforts along the Leeward Islands which had been hit by Hurricane Irma. 

The losses incurred from the hurricane were estimated to be more than $91.61 billion in 2017 in Puerto Rico, making it the third most expensive tropical cyclone in history.

The hurricane Maria which originated from a tropical wave would later become a tropical storm on September 16 of the same year, east of the Lesser Antilles. Favorable environmental conditions intensified the storm as it made its way towards the island. 

Category 5 Hurricane

On September 18, the hurricane was a category 5 before making landfall in Dominica. It became the first category 5 hurricane in history to strike an island, earning its place among the worst disasters in US history.

Maria weakened slightly while crossing Dominica and intensified across the eastern Caribbean with a maximum of 175 mph sustained winds and a 908 mbar pressure. 

An eye wall replacement cycle happened on September 20, which weakened the hurricane to category 4 as it struck Puerto Rico.

Due to interaction with the land, the hurricane weakened further but later intensified as it made its way towards the northeast Bahamas. Maria slowly proceeded to the north weakening to a tropical storm on the 28th of September.

The hurricane advanced towards the east and the east northeast towards the open Atlantic and later became extra tropical on the 30th of September. 

Dissipation of the Hurricane

Maria would dissipate on the 2nd of October. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria caused severe devastation on the entire Dominica, characterized by communication blackout that affected the entire Island. A big percentage of the infrastructure and housing were destroyed beyond repair and the abundant vegetation on the island was destroyed. 

There was flooding, uprooted trees, and damaged roofs on the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Maria also left a tremendous humanitarian crisis as well as a trail of damage.

Following the storm, one of the worst electrical blackouts in US history was experienced. Numerous businesses and homes were still grappling with a lack of power as late as June 2018, almost 10 months after the storm. 

Hurricane Maria was the third successive major hurricane to hit Leeward Islands within two weeks. This was after Irma made landfall in some of the islands exactly two weeks before hurricane Jose, another worst natural disaster in US history struck, and causing tropical-storm-force winds to Barbuda. 

5. 2016 Ecuador Earthquake

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador on the 16th of April 2016. This was one of the largest natural disasters which left approximately 700 people dead. The disaster left schools, homes, and infrastructure damaged beyond repair. 

Over 6,000 people were left with severe injuries as well. The epicenter of this earthquake was approximately 17 miles offshore from Muisne, a town in Manabi province around 100 miles northwest of Quito, the capital city. The most affected provinces were Esmeraldas, Manabi, Santa Elena, Santo Domingo, Quayas, and Los Rio. 

The earthquake left over 700,000 people needing assistance, approximately 35,000 houses damaged, and over 100,000 people in need of shelter. Sanitation, water, and healthcare facilities were also damaged.

The earthquake was described as the worst to ever hit Ecuador since 1987. Ecuador lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is prone to numerous small earthquakes that happen every year.  

6. 2015 Nepal earthquake

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on the 25th of April 2015. So powerful was the earthquake such that it was said to be one of the worst natural disasters in the world. The disaster left many multi-story buildings in Kathmandu completely damaged and created avalanches and landslides in the Himalaya Mountains. 

Approximately 9,000 people died and over 22,000 more suffered injuries. What followed was a series of aftershocks and 17 days later another 7.3 magnitude temblor struck.

Thirty-nine out of the country’s 75 districts with 8 million people were affected. Numerous people lost their property and the quake left destruction in more than 60,000 homes. 

Approximately 288,000 homes in the 14 worst struck districts were destroyed. The earthquake was worst felt in remote rural areas which made response an arduous task.

Still, humanitarian bodies responded to the disaster fast with their search and rescue services and aid deliveries. The rebuilding of schools, houses, health clinics, and livelihoods is still underway to date. 

7. 2014 Ludian Earthquake

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Yunnan in Ludian county China on August 3, 2014. The quake left approximately 617 people dead and injured 2,400 other people.

As of August 5th, 2014, 112 people were still missing. Following the quake termed as one of the worst natural disasters in the world, more than 12,000 collapsed while 30,000 others were damaged. 

The United States Geological Survey reported that the quake took place 29 km in the west southwestern area of Zhaotong city.

The earthquake was more intense in the Yunnan province and less in the Sichuan and Guizhou areas. The earthquake resulted from a strike-slip fault that has a southwest-northeast fault plane. 

Seismicity in Southern Asia results from the orogenic activity in the Himalayan mountain belt.

Following the intricate interaction between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate from Afghanistan in the east of China and West of Burma, many superficial subsurface faults can be found in Myanmar and southwest China. 

8. 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami

On the 11th of March 2011, a 9 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan resulting in one of the worst tsunamis in history.

The aftermath of this massive earthquake was felt across the world from Antarctica’s ice sheet to Norway’s fjords. Years later, Tsunami debris continues to flow along North American beaches. 

Residents of Japan are yet to recover from the disaster. As of 2017 February, 150,000 evacuees were still grappling with a lack of homes with 50,000 of them living in temporary housing years after the catastrophic event.

Over 120,000 buildings were destroyed following the earthquake while 278,000 were slightly damaged. 

Over 726,000 homes were damaged partially, according to a Japanese agency. The financial damage was estimated to be 199 billion dollars according to statistics provided by the Japanese Government.

The entire economic cost was estimated to be $235 billion according to statistics provided by the World Bank. this was by far one of the most expensive disasters in the world. 

9. 2013 Typhoon Haiyan

On the 8th of November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines as a category 5 storm. The typhoon left a trail of waste along with the Visayas group of islands, one of the central regions in the country that hosts up to 17 million people. Hayan was the most robust storm in 2013 and among the most robust in history. 

Wind beats sustained from the typhoon were over 150 mph landing it a classification as a super typhoon. The typhoon’s gigantic storm surge left more destruction with local officials estimating that Tacloban city located on the Leyte island was 90% damaged.

The disaster affected over 14 million people in 44 provinces and left 4.1 million people displaced. 

Over 6,000 people were killed in the disaster which left 1,800 people missing. Further, 1.1 million houses were partially or completely damaged.

Coconut trees are a crucial source of livelihood for the people of the Philippines. The typhoon, however, didn’t spare them and left over 33 million of them entirely damaged disrupting the livelihoods of over 5.9 million workers. 

10. 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

On the 26th of December 2004, a massive earthquake and tsunami, also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami, with its epicenter at the west coast area of Northern Sumatra Indonesia struck. The 9.1 – 9.3 magnitude earthquake achieved a Mercalli intensity up to IX in some areas. 

The quake resulted from a rupture along the fault between the Indian Plate and the Burma Plate. The underwater seismic activity triggered massive tsunami waves which left huge damage to the people living along the nearby coasts.

Following the disaster, approximately 227,898 people in 14 countries died. 

The largest number of victims was from Banda Aceh, a city in Indonesia. The disaster was the third-largest earthquake ever in history with the longest faulting duration ever recorded between 8 and 10 minutes.

This triggered a 10-millimeter vibration on the planet and also triggered a series of earthquakes as far away as Alaska. 

So huge was the disaster such that it prompted a humanitarian response worldwide resulting in up to $14 billion. Scientifically, the event is referred to as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake.

Video – Worst Natural Disasters You Didn’t Know About

Which are 5 of the Deadliest Natural Disasters Since 2000?

Some of these disasters include: 

  1. Haiti Earthquake of 2010
  2. Kashmir Earthquake (2005)
  3. Indian Ocean EarthQuake and Tsunami (2004)
  4. Cyclone Nargis (2008)
  5. Sichuan Earthquake (2008)

Which are 4 of the Deadliest Natural Disasters since 1900?

They include:

  1. Bangladesh: Cyclone 1991
  2. China: Yangtze River Flood: 1935
  3. Japan: Great Kanto Earthquake: 1923
  4. East Pakistan (now Bangladesh): Bhola Cyclone: 1970

Which are the Worst Natural Disasters in United States?

  1. The 1901 Eastern United States Heat Wave which left behind 9,500 Deaths
  2. The 1988 United States Heat Wave that left 10,000 Deaths 
  3. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire that left 6,000 Deaths 
  4. The 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane that left 3,000 Deaths 
  5. The 1900 Galveston Hurricane that left 12,000 Deaths 

Which are the World’s Worst Natural Disasters in 2018?

These include:

  1. Papua New Guinea earthquake that left 145 people dead
  2. Pakistan heat wave that left 180 people dead
  3. Nigeria floods that left 200 people dead
  4. India floods that left 361 people dead
  5. North Korea floods that left 151 people dead


While we may not be able to prevent natural disasters, we can be on the lookout for alerts and move to safer places where necessary.

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