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Natural disasters: eight of the most catastrophic in history

History is unfortunately full of episodes in which natural catastrophes have claimed a very high number of victims.

Looking at the case history, among the main causes that have triggered natural disasters throughout history are earthquakes, followed by floods and cyclones. These are natural phenomena beyond the control of man, who often manages to do very little, even in terms of prevention, against them.

The downside of all this is, of course, the high number of victims and the destruction that such phenomena generally entail. Often, in both cases, with devastating effects of great magnitude. (source: livescience)

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Natural disasters: eight of the most catastrophic in history
History is unfortunately full of episodes in which natural catastrophes have claimed a very high number of victims. Looking at the case history, among the main causes that have triggered natural disasters throughout history are earthquakes, followed by floods and cyclones. These are natural phenomena beyond the control of man, who often manages to do very little, even in terms of prevention, against them. The downside of all this is, of course, the high number of victims and the destruction that such phenomena generally entail. Often, in both cases, with devastating effects of great magnitude. (source: livescience)
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Earthquake in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan 2005
In 2005, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, causing landslides that destroyed several towns and villages, including Balakot and Muzaffarabad. The earthquake was caused by the sudden release of seismic stress between the Indian and Eurasian plates. The official death toll of the Pakistani government in November 2005 was 87,350, although it is estimated that the death toll could have reached over 100,000. Roughly 138,000 people were injured and more than 3.5 million were left homeless.
Logan Abassi/MINUSTAH via Getty Images
2010 earthquake in Haiti
In 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti near Port-au-Prince, killing at least 220,000 people, injuring another 300,000 and leaving 1.5 million homeless. The region is known to be prone to strong seismic tremors as the Caribbean plate rubs against the North American plate. Shortly after the earthquake, a severe cholera epidemic struck Haiti, killing about 10,000 people and causing an estimated 820,000 cases, compounded by the lack of sanitation in the devastated region.
Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
China floods of 1931
In 1931, a particularly wet season caused rivers in central China, including Yangtze, Huai and Huang He, to swell, causing floods that submerged towns and villages. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people drowned, while total casualties could be as high as 4 million due to the spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria, smallpox and typhoid in refugee camps in the months following the flood.
HO/AFP via Getty Images
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
In 2004, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered the deadliest tsunami in history. Waves as high as 30 feet hit Indonesia, India and surrounding countries, killing 227,000 people and causing an economic impact of $9.9 billion. The creation of the Indian Ocean tsunami warning system was inspired by this event.
YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images
Turkey-Syria earthquake of 2023
On February 6, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck south-central Turkey near Gaziantep, killing more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria, and causing at least 200,000 buildings in Turkey to collapse or to be damaged. More than 1.9 million people were displaced. The earthquake was the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939.
RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images
Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico 2017
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, causing devastating rainfall and flooding. It was among the most tragic natural disasters in the United States in the past 100 years and the third costliest tropical cyclone. The 41-inch average rainfall caused an estimated $90 billion in damage and killed nearly 3,000 people.
Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Australian bushfire season 2019-2020
Between 2019 and 2020, Australia was ravaged by deadly wildfires. According to the Australian Parliament, 33 people died from the wildfires, while 445 died from smoke inhalation. 46 million acres of forests were burned, according to Center of Disaster Philanthropy. Most of the wildfires were triggered by lightning, but according to the University of Oxford, climate change has increased the risk of intense wildfires in the southeastern Australia by 30 percent during the bushfire season since 1900.
China Photos/Getty Images
Earthquake of Sichuan, China, 2008
In 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck south-central China, causing landslides and building collapses that killed nearly 70,000 people in the province of Sichuan. The landslides created more than 800 dams that caused widespread flooding, and the situation was exacerbated by heavy rains that fell before military personnel could remove the dams.
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26/02/2024
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