The 10 most devastating natural disasters in history

Earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods, fires… these natural disasters have claimed the lives of thousands of people in various countries, where reconstruction has been one of the most painful consequences.

The force of nature has hit humanity on several occasions ; and it is that natural disasters have become part of the daily life of people all over the planet.

In the “World Risk 2018” report, the risks faced by 172 countries with respect to earthquakes , tsunamis , cyclones , floods , among other natural catastrophes , were evaluated , in addition to the capacity of these nations to deal with such events.

Among the results of this analysis, it stands out that the regions where the greatest sources of risk are found are: Oceania, Southeast Asia, Central America and West and Central Africa. Vanuatu is the country with the highest risk of a natural disaster , while Tonga ranks second and the Philippines third. These three countries face a high risk of being exposed to events such as cyclones and earthquakes. And at the same time they show a high level of “social vulnerability”; This is how the BBC publishes it.

The nations with the lowest risk of a natural catastrophe are: Qatar , followed by Malta and Saudi Arabia . As for Mexico , the report mentions that it has a “medium” risk.

On the other hand, points out in its statistics on natural disasters worldwide, from 2007 to 2018, that in 2018 alone, 850 natural disasters were recorded, being the highest figure of the indicated period. Likewise, Asia was the most affected region with 141 natural disasters in the same year; and approximately 24 million people were affected in India.

What are natural disasters?

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), natural disasters are violent, sudden and destructive changes in the environment, whose cause is not human activity, but natural phenomena, that is, a natural disaster is part of a process of nature, but when it comes into contact with humanity, it causes very serious problems.

And it is that earthquakes occur because the tectonic plates rearrange themselves, volcanoes erupt to release energy from the interior of the planet, avalanches happen when they contain a large amount of snow… it is impossible to avoid them.

Throughout the years, entire communities in various parts of the world have suffered these changes in nature and as the urban sprawl continues to grow, the contract with these natural phenomena is more devastating. However, we can take the necessary measures to be better prepared in the event of any natural phenomenon that threatens us.

1. Hurricane Katrina, United States, 2005

On August 29, 2005, this hurricane hit the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama in the southern United States. More than 1,800 people lost their lives and more than a million were displaced from their homes.

The total sum for the damage caused by this natural disasterreached 150 billion dollars, due to the fact that a large part of New Orleans was flooded. The cyclone resulted in appalling rains and 240 km/hr winds. The force of the hurricane burst the Lake Pontchartrain dam, releasing the water until it reached the historic center, turning the place into a death trap.

2. Tsunami and earthquake, Japan, 2011

On March 21, 2011, Japan was surprised by an earthquake and later, with a tsunami. At 2:46 p.m., an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 was detected, which later unleashed strong waves on the coasts.

It is estimated that this natural disaster caused the direct death of 18,430 people, but only 15,897 bodies were found. The problem was magnified because it occurred at the same time as the Fukushima nuclear accident, plunging the entire country into a state of emergency and mourning.

3. Hurricane Odile, Mexico, 2014

On September 14, 2014, the category 4 cyclone hit the city of Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California Sur. This natural disaster claimed the lives of 15 people, becoming one of the deadliest in the history of our country.

As a result of the arrival of Odile , much of the population of Baja California Sur was left without electrical power; service was restored only two weeks later. In addition, because it is an area with great tourist attractions, this hurricane caused 30,000 tourists, including 26,000 foreigners, to be stranded in airports trying to return home.

4. Heat Wave, Europe, 2003

In the summer of 2003, a historic heat wave broke all temperature records in Europe and caused 3,000 deaths in France alone. In addition, countries such as England, Spain, Portugal and Italy were affected, where several fires broke out, resulting in at least 15 deaths.

According to images captured by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) sensor, a team operated by NASA, temperatures in various areas of the southeast and eastern France rose 10 degrees above the numbers recorded a year earlier.

The heat even reached the Alps area, in southeastern France, Switzerland, Austria and northern Italy. The rise in temperature caused several glaciers to melt, increasing the levels of rivers and lakes; causing a natural disaster never seen before.

5. Earthquake, Haiti, 2010

On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, leaving the country in a state of total crisis. The epicenter of the earthquake was 15 kilometers from the capital, Port-au-Prince, and in the days following the initial natural disaster , there were more than 20 aftershocks, reaching magnitudes of up to 5.9 degrees.

The figures offered by the government established 326,000 dead and 150,000 wounded. More than 1.5 million people became homeless after losing their homes in the disaster, and five years after the earthquake, 80,000 people were still living in temporary camps due to slow reconstruction.

The earthquake reduced the National Palace, the Port-au-Prince cathedral and the United Nations (UN) mission building to rubble. The capital city’s main port and airport were also damaged. In total, the sum for material losses amounted to 7.9 billion dollars.

6. Earthquake, Mexico, 1985

It was 7:19 a.m. on September 19, 1985, when the country’s capital was shaken by an earthquake of magnitude 8.1. This telluric movement devastated the downtown area of ​​the city; the panorama was bleak, with collapsed buildings, buildings with severe damage and thousands of dead people.

That earthquake occurred off the coast of Michoacán, in the Pacific Ocean. Its shock wave took two minutes to reach the center of the country. The inhabitants of Mexico City realized when the floor was already beginning to move.

The exact number of victims left by this natural disaster is not known . The official government figure was 3,692; while the Mexican Red Cross indicates that it exceeded 10,000 people. Many of those who lost their lives were still asleep and did not have time to get out of their houses before they collapsed.

7. Tsunami, Southeast Asia, 2004

It was until December 26, 2004, when the inhabitants of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand understood the concept and magnitude of a tsunami. That day, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck the Indian Ocean. The epicenter was recorded on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, and affected countries in South and East Asia, as well as East Africa. The tsunami alert was activated and the population saw how a huge wave entered the land destroying everything.

The rescue work for this natural disaster lasted for weeks. Given the scarcity of water and sanitation problems, cases of cholera, hepatitis and dysentery began to proliferate.

There are no exact figures, but it is estimated that at least 230,000 people lost their lives in this natural disaster, the majority in Indonesia (160,000); Sri Lanka (35,000); India (16,000) and Thailand (8,000), according to the US National Geophysical Data Center. Added to the dead and missing are 2 million displaced persons.

8. Hurricane “Paulina”, Mexico, 1997

On October 9, 1997, Hurricane “Paulina” produced 411.2 mm of rain in less than 24 hours. This amount of water is the equivalent of what falls over three months in that region. “Paulina” began as a tropical wave on October 5, 410 km south-southwest of Huatulco, Oaxaca. Two days later it reached category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds of 215 km/h and gusts of up to 240 km/h.

On the afternoon of October 8, it made landfall near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, causing severe damage to the coast. On the morning of October 9, it entered the state of Guerrero and left the Port of Acapulco devastated.

The floods affected this region of the Mexican Pacific, leaving between 230 and 400 dead and nearly 300,000 people homeless. After causing this chaos, “Paulina” dissipated in the early hours of October 10 in the state of Jalisco.

9. Cyclone “Nargis”, Myanmar, 2008

The passage of this cyclone through the former Burma, today Myanmar, left two things: death and destruction. The cyclone, which originated in the Bay of Bengal, entered the southwestern coast of Myanmar on the night of May 2. The strong winds, from 190 to 240 kilometers per hour, caused the power and telephone supply to be cut off.

The authorities pointed out that the destruction caused by this natural disaster was similar to a war zone. The dead and missing numbered in the thousands, not to mention those who were left homeless after the shock of a phenomenon that devastated some areas of the country with heavy rains and winds of up to 240 kilometers per hour. The latest reports speak of 140,000 deaths

10. Earthquake, Ecuador, 2016

75 seconds… that was the duration of the worst earthquake that has shaken Ecuador and that left more than 650 people dead in the country. It occurred on April 16, with a magnitude of 7.8 and epicenter in the Pedernales area. The information began to spread and the relief bodies attended to those affected, but the aftershocks did not give respite. The authorities indicated that in the following days more than 3,400 aftershocks were registered, whose magnitude ranged between 6 and 9 degrees.

The coast, the tourist heart of the country, was the area hardest hit by the natural disaster . Some of the poorest places in the country were devastated and rescuers were unable to access them until a day later.

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