List of natural disasters by death toll

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A natural disaster is a sudden event that causes widespread destruction, lots of collateral damage or loss of life, brought about by forces other than the acts of human beings. A natural disaster might be caused by earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruption, landslide, hurricanes etc. In order to be classified as a disaster, it will have profound environmental effect and/or human loss and frequently incurs financial loss.

Ten deadliest natural disasters[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000*[1] 1931 China floods China July 1931
2. 900,000–2,000,000[2] 1887 Yellow River flood China September 1887
3. 830,000[3] 1556 Shaanxi earthquake China January 23, 1556
4. 300,000 1839 India cyclone[4] India November 26, 1839
1737 Calcutta Cyclone[5] India October 7, 1737
6. 280,000 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004
7. 273,400[6] 1920 Haiyuan earthquake China December 16, 1920
8. 250,000–500,000[1] 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 13, 1970
9. 250,000–300,000[7] 526 Antioch earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) May 526
10. 242,000–655,000 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976

* Estimate by Nova's sources are close to 4 million and yet Encarta's sources report as few as 1 million. Expert estimates report wide variance.

The list does not include several volcanic eruptions with uncertain death tolls resulting from collateral effects (crop failures, etc.), though these may have numbered in the millions; see List of volcanic eruptions by death toll.

The list does not include the man-made 1938 Yellow River flood, caused entirely by a deliberate man-made act (an act of war, destroying dikes).

An alternative listing is given by Peter Hough in his 2008 book Global Security.[8]

Ten deadliest natural disasters since 1900[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event* Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000 1931 China floods China July 1931
2. 280,000 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004
3. 273,400 1920 Haiyuan earthquake China December 16, 1920
4. 250,000–500,000 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 1970
5. 242,000–655,000 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976
6. 229,000 Typhoon Nina—contributed to Banqiao Dam failure China August 7, 1975
7. 160,000[9] 2010 Haiti earthquake Haiti January 12, 2010
8. 145,000 1935 Yangtze river flood China 1935
9. 143,000 1923 Great Kantō earthquake Japan September 1, 1923
10. 138,866 1991 Bangladesh cyclone Bangladesh April 1991

This list does not include industrial or technological accidents, epidemics, or the 1938 Yellow River flood.

Lists of natural disasters by cause[edit]

Deadliest earthquakes[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 820,000–830,000 1556 Shaanxi earthquake China January 23, 1556
2. 280,000 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake Indonesia December 26, 2004
3. 242,769–700,000[10][11][12] 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976
4. 273,400[6] 1920 Haiyuan earthquake Ningxia, China December 16, 1920
5. 250,000–300,000[7] 526 Antioch earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) May 526
6. 260,000[13] 115 Antioch earthquake Roman Empire (now Turkey) December 13, 115
7. 230,000 1138 Aleppo earthquake Zengid dynasty (now Syria) October 11, 1138
8. 200,000 1303 Hongdong earthquake[14] Mongol Empire (now China) September 17, 1303
856 Damghan earthquake Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) December 22, 856
1780 Tabriz earthquake[15] Iran January 8, 1780
11. 170,000[16] 896 Udaipur earthquake India 896
12. 160,000[9] 2010 Haiti earthquake Haiti January 12, 2010
13. 150,000 893 Ardabil earthquake Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) March 23, 893
14. 142,807[17][18] 1923 Great Kantō earthquake Japan September 1, 1923
15. 130,000[19] 533 Aleppo earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Syria) November 29, 533
16. 123,000[1] 1908 Messina earthquake Italy December 28, 1908
17. 110,000 1948 Ashgabat earthquake Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union (now Turkmenistan) October 5, 1948
18. 100,000 1290 Chihli earthquake Mongol Empire (now China) September 27, 1290
2005 Kashmir earthquake[citation needed] Pakistan (Azad Kashmir) October 8, 2005
20. 87,587[20][21] 2008 Sichuan earthquake China May 12, 2008
21. 80,000 1721 Tabriz earthquake[22] Iran April 26, 1721
458 Antioch earthquake[23] Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) September 458
1667 Shamakhi earthquake Safavid dynasty (now Azerbaijan) November 1667
1854 Great Nankaidō earthquake Japan November 1854
1169 Aleppo earthquake[24][25] Zengid dynasty (now Syria) 1169
26. 77,000 1727 Tabriz earthquake Iran November 18, 1727
27. 73,000[26] 1718 Gansu earthquake Qing Empire (now China) June 19, 1718
28. 70,000 1970 Ancash earthquake[27] Peru May 31, 1970
1033 Ramala earthquake[28] Fatimid Caliphate (now West Bank) December 10, 1033
847 Damascus earthquake[29] Abbasid Caliphate (now Syria) 847
1868 Ecuador earthquakes[30] Ecuador August 15, 1868 and August 16, 1868
32. 60,000 587 Antioch earthquake[31] Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) September 30, 587
1101 Khorasan earthquake[32] Great Seljuq Empire (now Iran) 1101
1268 Cilicia earthquake Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia (now Turkey) 1268
1693 Sicily earthquake Kingdom of Sicily (now Italy) January 11, 1693
1935 Quetta earthquake India (now part of Pakistan) May 31, 1935
37. 50,000 844 Damascus earthquake[33] Abbasid Caliphate (now Syria) September 18, 844
1042 Tabriz earthquake[34] Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) November 4, 1042
1783 Calabrian earthquakes Kingdom of Naples (now Italy) 1783
1990 Manjil–Rudbar earthquake Iran June 21, 1990
41. 40,000–50,000[35] 1755 Lisbon earthquake Portugal November 1, 1755
42. 45,000 850 Iran earthquake[36] Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) July 15, 850
856 Corinth earthquake[37] Byzantine Empire (now Greece) November 856
856 Tunisia earthquake[38][39] Abbasid Caliphate (now Tunisia) December 3, 856
45. 42,571[40] 1668 Shandong earthquake Qing Empire (now China) July 25, 1668
46. 40,900 1927 Gulang earthquake Gansu, China May 22, 1927
47. 40,000 342 Antioch earthquake[41] Roman Empire (now Turkey) 342
662 Damghan earthquake[42] Umayyad Caliphate (now Iran) April 26, 662
1455 Naples earthquake[43] Crown of Aragon (now Italy) December 5, 1455
1754 Cairo earthquake[44] Ottoman Empire (now Egypt) September 2, 1754
1755 Tabriz earthquake[45] Iran June 7, 1755
1797 Riobamba earthquake Spanish Empire (now Ecuador) February 4, 1797

Deadliest famines[edit]

Note: Some of these famines may be caused or partially caused by humans.

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 15,000,000–43,000,000 Great Chinese Famine China 1958–1961
2. 25,000,000[citation needed] Chinese Famine of 1907 China 1907
3. 13,000,000[46] Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879 China 1876–1879
4. 11,000,000 Doji bara famine or Skull famine India 1789–1792
5. 10,000,000 Bengal famine of 1770, incl. Bihar & Orissa India 1769–1771
6. 6,000,000+ Indian Famine British India 1896–1902
7. 7,500,000 Great European Famine Europe (all) 1315–1317
8. 7,000,000–10,000,000 Soviet famine of 1932–1933 (Holodomor in Ukraine) Soviet Union 1932–1934
9. 5,250,000 Indian Great Famine of 1876–78 India 1876–1878
10. 5,000,000 Chinese Famine of 1936 China 1936
Russian famine of 1921 Russia, Ukraine 1921–1922
12. 3,000,000 Chinese famine of 1928–1930 China 1928–1930
13. 2,000,000–3,000,000 Chinese Drought 1941 China 1942–1943
14. 2,000,000 Russian famine of 1601–1603 Russia (Muscovy) 1601–1603
Deccan Famine of 1630–32 India 1630–1632
Upper Doab famine of 1860–61 India 1860–1861
French Famine France 1693–1694
Great Persian Famine of 1870–71 Persia 1870–1871
19. 1,500,000–7,000,000 Bengal Famine of 1943 India 1943
20. 1,500,000 Great Irish Famine Ireland 1846–1849

Deadliest impact events[edit]

Note: Although there have been no scientifically verified cases of astronomical objects resulting in human fatalities, there have been several reported occurrences throughout human history. Consequently, the casualty figures for all events listed are considered unofficial.

Rank Death toll (unofficial) Location Date Notes
1. 10,000+ Qingyang, Gansu, China 1490 1490 Ch'ing-yang event
2. "Tens" Changshou District, China 1639 10 homes destroyed[47][48]
3. 10+ China 616 AD a large meteorite fell onto the rebel Lu Ming-Yueh's camp, destroying a wall-attacking tower[48]
4. 2 Malacca ship, Indian Ocean 1648 2 sailors killed on board a ship[48]
Podkamennaya Tunguska River, Siberia, Russian Empire 1908 Tunguska event[47]
6. 1 Cremona, Lombardy, Italy 1511 a monk and several animals were killed by stones weighing up to 50 kg[48]
Milan, Italy 1633 or 1664 a monk died after being struck on the thigh by a meteorite[48]
Gascony, France 1790 a farmer was reportedly struck and killed by a meteorite[48]
Oriang, Malwate, India 1825 [47][49]
Chin-kuei Shan, China 1874 a cottage was crushed by a meteorite, killing a child[47][50]
Newtown, Indiana, United States 1879 a man was killed in bed by a meteorite[47]
Dun-le-Poëlier, France 1879 a farmer was killed by a meteorite[47]
Zvezvan, Yugoslavia 1929 a meteorite hit a bridal party[47]

Deadliest limnic eruptions[edit]

(Only 2 recorded cases.)

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,744 Lake Nyos Cameroon 1986
2. 37 Lake Monoun Cameroon 1984

Deadliest wildfires / bushfires[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,200–2,500 Peshtigo Fire, Wisconsin United States October 8, 1871
2. 1,200 Kursha-2 Fire Soviet Union August 3, 1936
3. 453 Cloquet Fire, Minnesota United States October 12, 1918
4. 418 Great Hinckley Fire, Minnesota United States September 1, 1894
5. 282 Thumb Fire, Michigan United States September 5, 1881
6. 273 Matheson Fire, Ontario Canada July 29, 1916
7. 213 Black Dragon Fire China May 1, 1987
8. 173 Black Saturday bushfires Australia February 7, 2009
9. 160 Miramichi Fire Canada October 1825
10. 87 Great Fire of 1910 United States August 20, 1910
11. 84 2007 Greek forest fires Greece June 28, 2007
12. 82 1949 Landes Forest Fire France August 19, 1949
13. 75 Ash Wednesday bushfires Australia February 16, 1983
14. 73 Great Porcupine Fire Canada July 11, 1911
15. 71 Black Friday bushfires Australia January 13, 1939
16. 64 2017 Portugal wildfires Portugal June 17, 2017
17. 62 1967 Tasmanian fires Australia February 7, 1967
18. 60 1926 Victorian bushfires Australia January 26, 1926
19. 54 2010 Russian wildfires Russia July 29, 2010
20. 49 October 2017 Iberian wildfires Portugal and Spain October 15, 2017
21. 44 Mount Carmel Forest Fire Israel December 2, 2010
October 2017 Northern California wildfires United States October 8, 2017
23. 43 Great Fire of 1922 Canada October 4, 1922
24. 35 1921 Mari wildfires Russia 1921
25. 33 2015 Russian wildfires Russia April 12, 2015

Ten deadliest avalanches[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 20,000 1970 Huascarán avalanche; triggered by the 1970 Ancash earthquake[51] Peru 1970
2. 10,000 Tyrolean Alps Avalanche[52][53] Italy 1916
3. 4,000 1962 Huascarán avalanche[51] Peru 1962
4. 310 2015 Afghanistan avalanches Afghanistan 2015
5. 265 Winter of Terror Austria-Switzerland 1951
6. 201 2012 Afghanistan avalanches Afghanistan 2012
7. 172 2010 Salang avalanches Afghanistan 2010
8. 140 2012 Siachen Glacier avalanche Pakistan 2012
9. 125 Kolka-Karmadon rock ice slide Russia 2002
10. 107 Saint-Martin (Hautes-Pyrénées) France 1600

Ten deadliest blizzards[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 4,000 1972 Iran blizzard Iran 1972
2. 3,000 Carolean Death March Sweden/Norway 1719
3. 926 2008 Afghanistan blizzard Afghanistan 2008
4. 400 Great Blizzard of 1888 United States 1888
5. 353 Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 United States 1950
6. 318 1993 Storm of the Century United States 1993
7. 250 Great Lakes Storm of 1913 United States and Canada (Great Lakes region) 1913
8. 235 Schoolhouse Blizzard United States 1888
9. 199 Hakko-da Mountains incident Japan 1902
10. 154 North American blizzard of 1996 United States 1996

Ten deadliest floods / landslides[edit]

Note: Some of these floods and landslides may be partially caused by humans – for example, by failure of dams, levees, seawalls or retaining walls.

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000[54] 1931 China floods China 1931
2. 900,000–2,000,000 1887 Yellow River (Huang He) flood China 1887
3. 229,000[55] Failure of 62 dams, the largest of which was Banqiao Dam, result of Typhoon Nina. China 1975
4. 145,000 1935 Yangtze river flood China 1935
5. more than 100,000 St. Felix's Flood, storm surge Netherlands 1530
6. 100,000 Hanoi and Red River Delta flood North Vietnam 1971
7. up to 100,000[citation needed] 1911 Yangtze River flood China 1911
8. 50,000–80,000 St. Lucia's flood, storm surge Netherlands 1287
9. 60,000 North Sea flood, storm surge Netherlands 1212
10. 36,000 St. Marcellus flood, storm surge Netherlands 1219

The list does not include the man-made 1938 Yellow River flood caused entirely by a deliberate man-made act (an act of war, destroying dikes).

Ten deadliest heat waves[edit]

Measuring the number of deaths caused by a heat wave requires complicated statistical analysis, since heat waves tend to cause large numbers of deaths among people weakened by other conditions. As a result, the number of deaths is only known with any accuracy for heat waves in the modern era in countries with developed healthcare systems.

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 70,000 2003 European heat wave Europe 2003
2. 56,000 2010 Russian heat wave Russia 2010
3. 9,500 1901 eastern United States heat wave United States 1901
4. 5,000–10,000 1988 United States heat wave United States 1988
5. 3,418 2006 European heat wave Europe 2006[56]
6. 2,541 1998 India heat wave India 1998[56]
7. 2,500 2015 Indian heat wave India 2015
2015 Pakistan heat wave Pakistan 2015
9. 1,700–5,000 1980 United States heat wave United States 1980
10. 1,718 2010 Japanese heat wave Japan 2010[57]

Ten deadliest storms (non-cyclones)[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 10,000–30,000 Vargas tragedy Venezuela 1999
2. 903 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides Brazil 2011
3. 500 Lofoten, Heavy storm Norway 1849
4. 329 Mocoa tragedy Colombia 2017
5. 246 1888 Moradabad hailstorm India 1888
6. 242 1996 Amarnath Yatra tragedy India 1996
7. 210 Trøndelag, storm ("Follastormen") Norway 1625
8. 189 Eyemouth, Scotland, storm ("Black Friday") United Kingdom 1881
9. 156 1972 Hong Kong rainstorm disasters Hong Kong 1972
10. 140 Trøndelag, storm ("Titran disaster") Norway 1899

Ten deadliest tornadoes[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,300 The Daulatpur-Salturia Tornado Manikganj, Bangladesh 1989
2. 695 The Tri-State Tornado United States (MissouriIllinoisIndiana) 1925
3. 681 1973 Dhaka Tornado Bangladesh 1973
4. 660 1969 East Pakistan Tornado East Pakistan, Pakistan (now Bangladesh) 1969
5. 600 The Valletta, Malta Tornado Malta 1551 or 1556
6. 500 The Sicily Tornadoes Sicily, Two Sicilies (now Italy) 1851
The Narail-Magura Tornado Jessore, East Pakistan, Pakistan (now Bangladesh) 1964
The Madaripur-Shibchar Tornado Bangladesh 1977
9. 400 The Ivanovo-Yaroslavl, Russia, Tornado Soviet Union (now Russia) 1984
10. 317 The Great Natchez Tornado United States (MississippiLouisiana) 1840

Ten deadliest tropical cyclones[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 375,000 (250,000–500,000) 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 13, 1970
2. 300,000 1737 Calcutta cyclone[5] India October 7, 1737
1839 India Cyclone[4] India November 25, 1839
4. 229,000 Super Typhoon Nina—contributed to Banqiao Dam failure China August 7, 1975
5. 200,000[58] Great Backerganj Cyclone of 1876 India (now Bangladesh) October 30, 1876
6. 150,000 (30,000 to 300,000)[59] 1881 Haiphong Typhoon Vietnam October 8, 1881
7. 138,866 1991 Bangladesh cyclone Bangladesh April 29, 1991
8. 138,366 Cyclone Nargis Myanmar May 2, 2008
9. 100,000 July 1780 Typhoon[60] Philippines 1780

Earlier versions of this list have included the so-called 'Bombay Cyclone of 1882' in tenth position, but this supposed event has been proved a hoax.

Ten deadliest tsunamis[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 300,000–500,000 (est.) 365 Crete earthquake Greece July 21, 365
2. 280,000 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004
3. 123,000[1] 1908 Messina earthquake Italy December 28, 1908
4. 36,417–120,000 1883 eruption of Krakatoa Indonesia August 26, 1883
5. 40,000–50,000[35] 1755 Lisbon earthquake Portugal November 1, 1755
6. 30,000-100,000 (est.) Minoan Eruption Greece 2nd Millennium BC
7. 31,000 1498 Meiō Nankaidō earthquake Japan September 20, 1498
8. 30,000 1707 Hōei earthquake Japan October 28, 1707
9. 27,122[61] 1896 Sanriku earthquake Japan June 15, 1896
10. 25,674 1868 Arica earthquake Chile August 13, 1868

A 1782 possible tsunami causing about 40,000 deaths in the Taiwan Strait area may have been of "meteorological" origin (a cyclone)[62]

Ten deadliest volcanic eruptions[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 71,000+[63] 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora (see also Year Without a Summer) Indonesia April 10, 1815
2. 36,000+[64] 1883 eruption of Krakatoa Indonesia August 26, 1883
3. 30,000[65] Mount Pelée Martinique May 7, 1902
4. 23,000[66] Armero tragedy Colombia November 13, 1985
5. 15,000 1600 Eruption of Huaynaputina Peru February 19, 1600
6. 15,000[67] 1792 Unzen earthquake and tsunami Japan May 21, 1792
7. 10,000 Mount Kelud Indonesia 1586
8. 6,000[68] Santa Maria Guatemala October 24, 1902
9. 5,000[69] Mount Kelud Indonesia May 19, 1919
10. 4,011[70] Mount Galunggung Indonesia 1822

See also[edit]

Other lists organized by death toll

References[edit]

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External links[edit]