The Worst Disasters of the Century

We're all familiar with the power of nature, whether in the form of hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods or tornadoes. Many who are reading this have experienced these first hand, others have seen the countless heartbreaking images and stories of loss of life and property.

For those who survive, there is the devastating loss of homes, family, and entire communities. The cost of cleanup and rebuilding is mind-boggling.

We start with the five most expensive disasters in the world in 2018, according to Munich Re (MURGF) , a reinsurance company in Munich, Germany, followed by some of the deadliest natural disasters and famines of the the last 100 years.

Camp Fire - Paradise, Calif.
Camp Fire - Paradise, Calif.

Camp Fire

Paradise, Calif., U.S., November, 2018

Deaths: 85

Cost: $16.5 billion total ($12.5 billion insured, $4 billion uninsured)

California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire was one of the costliest disasters in the world in 2018, and high on the list of the world's deadliest fires ever. The fire, which started in the early hours of Nov. 8 in extremely dry and windy conditions, quickly swept through the northern California town of Paradise (pop. 27,000), sending thousands fleeing for their lives along the few escape routes. It left 85 dead, burned 153,336 acres, including nearly 14,000 residences and more than 4,800 other buildings, leaving almost nothing left of the town.

Photo: Senior Airman Crystal Housman/ U.S. Air National Guard

Camp Fire - Paradise, Calif.
Camp Fire - Paradise, Calif.

A month after the Camp Fire, Mary Gowins feeds a neighborhood cat she has taken care of for the past seven years in Paradise, Calif. The cat had been lost since the fire erupted on Nov. 8, 2018.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Taylor Workman/USAF

Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael

U.S., Cuba, Central America, October, 2018

Deaths: 74

Cost: $16 billion ($10 billion insured, $6 billion uninsured.) NOAA has estimated the cost of the hurricane at $25 billion.

The Category 5 hurricane made landfall in Florida's panhandle with 160 mph winds on Oct. 10, 2018, killing 59 people in the U.S and 15 in Cuba and Central America. Above, Mexico Beach, Florida after the hurricane.

Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Colin Hunt/U.S. Coast Guard

Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael

Michael was the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Andrew in 1993. Many people are still displaced and towns still devastated. 

Photo: Getty Images

Hurricane Florence
Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence

U.S., September 2018

Deaths: 24

Cost: $14 billion ($5 billion insured, $9 billion uninsured.) NOAA has estimated the cost of the hurricane at $24 billion.

The long-lived hurricane dumped nearly 36 inches of rain on Elizabethtown, N.C. and caused deaths and damage mostly due to flooding. At least 24 people were directly killed in four states.

Hurricane Florence
Hurricane Florence

Florence's winds knocked down thousands of trees, causing power outages to nearly all of eastern North Carolina. A record-breaking storm surge of 9 to 13 feet along with the rainfall produced catastrophic flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

Above, much of Moores Creek National Battlefield in North Carolina was flooded by the torrential rains of Florence.

Photo: National Parks Service

Typhoon Jebi
Typhoon Jebi

Typhoon Jebi

Japan and Taiwan, September 2018

Deaths: 17

Cost: $12.5 billion ($9 billion insured, $3.5 billion uninsured)

Jebi was the strongest typhoon to hit Japan since 1993. Winds were so powerful they plucked a fuel tanker from the sea and slammed it into a bridge.

Photo: Totti/Wikipedia

Flooding and Landslides - Japan
Flooding and Landslides - Japan

Flooding and Landslides

Japan, July 2018

Deaths: 225

Cost: 9.5 billion ( $2.4 billion insured, $7.1 billion uninsured)

Successive heavy downpours last year in southwestern Japan resulted in widespread, devastating floods and mudflows leading to at least 225 deaths.

Photo: khws4v1 from Hiroshima, Japan/Wikipedia

1931 China Floods
1931 China Floods

These are some of the deadliest natural disasters in the world in the last 100 years:

1931 China Floods

China, July 1931

Deaths: 1 million to 4 million

One of the most lethal natural disasters of the 20th century, heavy spring rains and melting snow from a harsh winter followed a long drought in China, resulting in heavy flooding on the Yangtze River, killing millions and displacing many more. Above, victims displaced by flooding in 1931.

Photo: Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive) via Wikipedia

1970 Bhola Cyclone
1970 Bhola Cyclone

1970 Bhola Cyclone

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh,) November 1970

Deaths: More than 500,000

This tropical cyclone created a storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta, then hit the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh.) Flooding devastated many offshore islands, wiping out villages, killing more than a half million people and destroying crops throughout the region. Pictured is the modern-day port of Chittagong, Bangladesh, where winds of 89 mph were recorded before the anemometer was blown off in the cyclone.

Photo: Salvacampillo / Shutterstock

2010 Haiti Earthquake
2010 Haiti Earthquake

2010 Haiti Earthquake

Haiti, Jan. 12, 2010

Deaths: 316,000

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince killed an estimated 100,000 to 316,000 people. Morgues were overwhelmed and people were buried in mass graves. At least a quarter of a million residences and commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in one of the worst earthquakes of the century.

Photo: Marcello Casal Jr/ABr Wikipedia

1920 Haiyuan Earthquake
1920 Haiyuan Earthquake

1920 Haiyuan Earthquake

China, Dec. 16, 1920

Deaths: 273,400

A 7.8 earthquake caused a landslide that buried one village, and more than 73,000 people were killed in just one county alone. An estimated 200,000 people were killed in the quake, and many more, displaced and living in temporary shelters, died of the cold. Aftershocks continued for three years. Pictured is modern-day Lanzhou, one of the seven major cities that was damaged in the quake nearly 100 years ago.

Photo: Shutterstock

1976 Tangshan Earthquake
1976 Tangshan Earthquake

1976 Tangshan Earthquake

China, July 28, 1976

Deaths: 242,769 to 655,000

The region around Tangshan in China was hit by a 7.0 earthquake at 3:42 a.m. Within minutes the industrial city of one million people was completely destroyed, hundreds of thousands were dead, all services failed, and most of the highway and rail bridges had collapsed. Above, an earthquake monument in Tangshan.

Photo: chinahbzyg / Shutterstock

Typhoon Nina and the Banqiao Dam Failure
Typhoon Nina and the Banqiao Dam Failure

Typhoon Nina and the Banqiao Dam Failure

China, Aug. 7, 1975

Deaths: 229,000

Heavy nonstop rains from a typhoon led to one of the worst structural failures in all of history - the failure of the Banqiao Dam on the Ru River in China. When the dam crested, a 20-foot wall of water inundated communities below, drowning 26,000, with another estimated 145,000 dying from disease and famine caused by the floods.

Photo: Shutterstock

2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami
2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Indian Ocean, Dec. 26, 2004

Deaths: 227,898

When 9.1 magnitude earthquake shook under the ocean off the west coast of northern Sumatra, it caused a series of large tsunamis up to 100 feet high that killed an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries including India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia, with fatalities occurring as far as Cape Town, South Africa. Above, a village near the coast of Sumatra lays in ruin after the tsunami.

Photo: Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Philip A. McDaniel/USN

1935 Yangtze River Flood
1935 Yangtze River Flood

1935 Yangtze River Flood

China, 1935

Deaths: 145,000

The Yangtze River, pictured here, is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world. It has a history of flooding, and the 1935 flood, killing about 145,000 followed just four years after the catastrophic floods of 1931.

Photo: Shutterstock

1923 Great Kanto Earthquake
1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

1923 Great Kanto Earthquake

Japan, Sept. 1, 1923

Deaths: 143,000

Tokyo and Yokohama were devastated by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that shook Japan's main island of Honshu in 1923. Many died from fires that broke out and were spread by high winds.

Photo: The Osaka Mainichi

1991 Bangladesh Cyclone
1991 Bangladesh Cyclone

1991 Bangladesh Cyclone

Bangladesh, April 1991

Deaths: 138,866

One of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record, this one struck southeastern Bangladesh with winds of around 155 mph. The 20-foot storm surge killed at least 138,866 people and left as many as 10 million homeless. Above, flooded villages and fields around a river in Bangladesh the day after the cyclone had struck.

Photo: Staff Sergeant Val Gempis/USAF

2005 Kashmir Earthquake
2005 Kashmir Earthquake

2005 Kashmir Earthquake

Pakistan, Oct. 8, 2005

Deaths: 87,351

Most of the devastation from this 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit north Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Many people were trapped in their homes, and many children were killed when school buildings collapsed. Above, assistance efforts in Pakistan following the quake.

Photo: Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Timothy Smith/USN

2008 Sichuan Earthquake
2008 Sichuan Earthquake

2008 Sichuan Earthquake

China, May 12, 2008

Deaths: 69,180 known

This 8.0 earthquake 50 miles west-northwest of Chengdu was felt more than a thousand miles away in Shanghai, and killed at least 69,000 people. Aftershocks continued for months.

Photo: Ren shen zhi jian/Wikipedia

Huascaran Avalanche/Ancash Earthquake
Huascaran Avalanche/Ancash Earthquake

Huascaran Avalanche/Ancash Earthquake

Peru, 1970

Deaths: 70,000 (est.)

Triggered by the Ancash earthquake, a landslide of snow, ice and mud from Mount Huascaran buried two towns below, killing 22,000 people. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage across a widespread area. Combined with the landslide, nearly 70,000 people were killed. Pictured is Mount Huascaran.

Photo: Wikipedia

1990 Manjil-Rudbar Earthquake
1990 Manjil-Rudbar Earthquake

1990 Manjil-Rudbar Earthquake

Iran, June 21, 1990

Deaths: 50,000

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake caused widespread damage to the region northwest of Tehran. Above, rubble from unreinforced masonry buildings in the damaged area.

Photo: M. Mehrain, Dames and Moore/NOAA/NGDC

Vargas Tragedy
Vargas Tragedy

Avalanches and Other Disasters

Vargas Tragedy

Vargas, Venzuela, 1999

Deaths: 10,000- 30,000

Torrential rains caused flash floods and debris flows that killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed thousands of homes, and led to the complete collapse of the infrastructure of the state of Vargas, Venezuela. Entire towns completely disappeared.

Photo: USGS

Armero Tragedy
Armero Tragedy

Armero Tragedy

Tolima, Colombia, November, 1985

Deaths: 23,000

An eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano in Tolima, Colombia, after 69 years of dormancy caught nearby towns unaware. The volcano's flows melted the mountain's glaciers, sending mudflows, landslides, and debris down its slopes at 30 mph, engulfing the town of Armero and killing more than 20,000 people. Above, some of the ruins of the town of Armero.

Photo: Shutterstock

Lake Nyos Limnic Eruption
Lake Nyos Limnic Eruption

Lake Nyos Limnic Eruption

Cameroon, Aug. 21, 1986

Deaths: 1,744

When an eruption triggered the sudden release of about 100,000-300,000 tons of carbon dioxide from Lake Nyos in Cameroon, (pictured) the gas cloud descended onto nearby villages, displacing all the air and suffocating 1,744 people and killing 3,500 livestock within 16 miles of the lake.

A limnic eruption is when dissolved carbon dioxide erupts from deep lake waters, forming a gas cloud. These events may be caused by earthquakes or volcanic activities, and they can lead to tsunamis when the gas cloud displaces water. A similar eruption occurred two years earlier at Lake Monoun, also in Cameroon, killing 37 people. These are the only two recorded cases of limnic eruptions.

Photo: Shutterstock

Deadliest Famines: The Great Chinese Famine
Deadliest Famines: The Great Chinese Famine

Deadliest Famines: These are some of the deadliest famines and other disasters that have occurred in the last century. These are human-caused or partially human-caused.

Great Chinese Famine

China, 1958-1961

Deaths: 15 million - 43 million

While drought was a factor, many say the burden of the largest famine in human history falls heavily upon Mao Zedong, chairman of the People's Republic of China. Mao, through a desire to move the country into industrialism, ordered tens of millions of farming peasants to mine iron ore and limestone, cut trees and smelt metal, according to a paper on the subject. The farmers were forced to abandon food production, while the government fabricated reports of record grain harvests and denied the fact that people were starving. Pictured is Mao in 1957.

Photo: Wikipedia

Javanese Famine
Javanese Famine

Javanese Famine

Japanese Java, 1944-1945

Deaths: 2.4 million

Japan's occupation of the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, during World War II is associated with forced labor, torture, sex slavery, executions and other war crimes. Famine took the lives of 2.4 million people in 1944-45. Above, Japanese war criminals face a court in Makassar, Indonesia in 1945.

Photo: Tropenmuseum via Wikipedia

Biafran War Famine
Biafran War Famine

Biafran War Famine

Nigeria, 1967-1970

Deaths: 2 million

A blockade set up during a 3-year civil war in Nigeria prevented imports to the secessionist Biafra, leading to famine and the deaths of 2 million people, half of them children. Above, a severely malnourished Nigerian refugee in a refugee camp near the Nigerian-Biafran war zone.

Photo: CDC

Chinese Famine of 1942-43
Chinese Famine of 1942-43

Chinese Famine of 1942-43

China, 1942-1943

Deaths: 2 million to 3 million

Flood, drought, locusts and war with the Japanese led to famine in the winter of 1942 in China, while both Chinese and Japanese authorities continued grain requisition policies in order to feed their soldiers.

Above, Japanese soldiers in China in 1942.

Photo: Wikipedia

Bengal Famine of 1943
Bengal Famine of 1943

Bengal Famine of 1943

India, 1943-1944

Deaths: 1.5 million to 3 million

This major famine of the Bengal province of British India during World War II killed as many as 3 million people. Pictured are orphans who survived the famine of 1943, the image is from the 1944 book "Bengal Speaks."

Photo: Wikipedia

Advertisement