The 7 Worst Natural Disasters in World History




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  • 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.

A view of a beach

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  • 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. ​​