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The Deadliest Natural Disasters in History


With COVID-19 almost a part of collective history now that most of the world has access to their vaccines, it’s almost weird to imagine how life was for the last year and a half. But now that the epidemic is practically done and dealt with, we can look back to some other tragedies of the past and realize that it doesn’t always have to be a virus that wipes out a depressing amount of people.

Let’s take a look at some of the deadliest natural disasters we’ve ever been confronted with. If nothing else, it’ll prove that humanity really does conquer all adversity. At least up until now.

The Yellow River Flood 

This flood took place in September 1887 and took the lives of at least 900 000 Chinese citizens with the highest estimates going up to 2 million. The flood was estimated to have covered an area of no less than 130000 square kilometers, which is about one third of Germany.

The Bhola Cyclone

Cyclones don’t usually kill loads of people, but this 1970 cyclone in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) killed half a million people. It reached peak wind speeds of 185 km/h and killed near half (45%) of the population in the most affected city. 

The China Floods

I’ll just give you a small spoiler – this isn’t going to be the last time China pops up in this list. The 1931 China floods have a high estimate of 4 million casualties, but the lows seem to hover around half a million or even 140 000. The actual number is hard to determine since the floods took place over a three-month period and it does become difficult to determine whether the flood caused the death or not.

The Haiti Earthquake

One most of us probably remember, this earthquake took place in 2010. It took the lives of 316 000 people and the country still hasn’t fully recovered from what happened over a decade ago. Most of the deaths were sadly caused because of poor housing conditions, which were related to the history of poverty and national debt.

The Shaanxi Earthquake

Oh hey, here comes China again! This earthquake dates all the way back to 1556 so the numbers are a bit iffy, but it allegedly cost the lives of 830 000 people. According to imperial records, the destruction affected an area 840 kilometers wide.

The Coringa Cyclone

Another oldie – this one took place in 1839. The Coringa cyclone hit huge parts of southeast India and took the lives of over 300000 people. The cyclone is named after the port city of Coringa, which it hit the hardest. After the disaster, the city wasn’t rebuilt.

The Tangshan Earthquake

What? China again? Yes sir (or madam), and this 1976 disaster took the lives of potentially 655 000 innocent souls. It’s clear by now that the forces of nature hit hardest in Asia and specifically China. The most optimistic numbers of this earthquake are 242 000 casualties, which is still far too much by any standard.