Throughout human history, natural disasters have wreaked havoc on humans. Throughout the ages, Mother Nature has always had the upper hand. Despite the massive technological evolution that humans had over the past centuries and millennia, there is still so little that be done in the face of nature’s wrath. Volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis and earthquakes have and still occasionally wipe out thousands of peoples every now and then. This is a list of the worst natural disasters in known human history in which historians were able to provide an estimated death toll.
Also See: Top 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History
10. Aleppo Earthquake
Estimated Death Toll: Approximately 230,000
On October 11, 1138, a devastating earthquake struck the Syrian city of Aleppo. The earthquake’s magnitude was estimated to be 8.5, which is considered an earthquake of a destructive magnitude. The devastating earthquake did massive damage to the ancient city, killing around 230,000 people in its wake. The city was mostly reduced to rubble by this earthquake.
The city of Aleppo’s geographical location is prone to earthquakes. The city is located in northern Syria in a region that is a part of the Dead Sea Fault system. The city rests on the boundary between the African plate and the Arabian geographic plate, make it very vulnerable to such destructive earthquakes.
9. Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami
Estimated Death Toll: 250,000
On December 26, 2004, a massive 9.3 undersea earthquake with an epicenter off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia resulted in one of the worst tsunamis ever recorded. Since the devastating earthquake occurred in the sea, the devastating effect wasn’t directly caused by the earthquake. The damage and human loss was caused by the devastating tsunami that followed the earthquake. The tsunami hit the coasts if several countries in the South and Southeast Asia region. The Indian Ocean earthquake and its resulting tsunami killed around 250,000 people.
8. Haiyuan Earthquake
Estimated Death Toll: 235,000
The Haiyuan earthquake, also known as the Gansu earthquake in relevance to the Gansu province where it is located was by all means devastating. The earthquake that hit Haiyuan on December 16, 1920 had a magnitude of 8.5. This earthquake is considered one of the most damaging earthquakes by the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in Japan. With a death toll of 235,000 people and enormous destruction of property, this earthquake is number 8 on our list.
7. Tangshan Earthquake
Estimated Death Toll: 242,000
On July 28, 1976, the industrial city of Tangshan was struck by the epicenter of a magnitude 8 earthquake. The industrial city which had over one million inhabitants was devastated by the earthquake. About a quarter of city’s population died in this earthquake with thousands becoming homeless. The government of the People’s Republic of China first estimated the death toll to be more than 650,000 people, which was later re-estimated to 242,000.
6. Antioch Earthquake
Estimated Death Toll: 300,000
The Antioch earthquake is one of the oldest natural disasters on our list. This earthquake occurred in 526 AD. The city of Antioch was located in the modern-day location of the Turkish city of Antakya. The earthquake is of unknown magnitude however, the death toll was estimated to be around 300,000. According to historical writing, after the quake, a massive fire destroyed most of the buildings that were spared by the earthquake, completely eradicating a once prosperous city.
5. India Cyclone
Estimated Death Toll: 320,000
On November 25, 1839, the Indian harbor city of Coringa was hit by a massive cyclone. The cyclone triggered a 40 foot wave that destroyed pretty much the entire village. In addition to destroying the city, the cyclone destroyed most of the ship at the harbor at that time. In addition to people dying from the wave, the cyclone caused around 20,000 to drown at sea.
4. Bhola Cyclone
Estimated Death Toll: 500,000
The Bhola Cyclone was the deadliest cyclone ever recorded. On November 12, 1970, this massive cyclone struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal area. The cyclone has caused a flood in the islands of the Ganges Delta, causing so many deaths and wreaking havoc on the region. The cyclone has caused approximately 500,000 deaths in region. Deaths were caused mainly by the rising water levels and the following storms.
3. Shaanxi Earthquake
Estimated Death Toll: 830,000
In January 23, 1556, the deadliest earthquake every recorded occurred in Shaanxi province, China. The earthquake simply destroyed the Shaanxi province. The magnitude 8 earthquake has killed approximately 830,000 people. Given the fact that the province had about 1.5 million inhabitants, the death toll exceeded 50% of the population of an entire province, making it the largest earthquake ever recorded.
2. Yellow River Flood
Estimated Death Toll: 2,000,000
The Yellow River Flood is the deadliest flood ever recorded in the history of mankind and the second deadliest natural disaster ever recorded. In September 1887, the Yellow River greatly overflowed, flooding the Chinese Henan Province along with many large towns and hundreds of villages. The flood has left millions of peoples homeless and had an estimated death toll of two million people.
1. Central China Floods
Estimated Death Toll: 3.7 million people
The Central China Floods is the worst natural disaster ever recorded in known human history. The floods were simply of an unbelievable magnitude that affects huge areas of China. The Central China Floods began in August, 1931. The Yangtze River overflowed and triggered a series of floods in a chain reaction effect. The result was a flood of an enormous magnitude that left around 3.7 million people dead. The causes of death varied between drowning, starvation and disease.
Despite the high number of death, the magnitude of the catastrophe was even greater. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the number of people affected by the flood was much higher. More than 51 million people have been affected by the implications of the flood. Taken into consideration the Chinese populations at that time, about a quarter of the Chinese people were affected by this disaster, making it the number one disaster on our list.
Natural disasters often happen suddenly without pretty much anything that can be done proactively. With the increasing pollution and climate change, we can just hope this doesn’t trigger large scale natural disasters that would leave millions of people dead.
Also see: Top 10 Vicious Tornadoes in History