History is riddled with natural disasters that have cost mankind both lives and money. Since history could be recorded, there have occurred various natural disasters ranging from volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis to floods and hurricanes. Natural disasters have their special place in human history. This paper will give a rough chronology of the worst natural disasters in the history of the world.
The first category of natural disasters comprises those accidents that happened before the 20th century. Only the worst disasters will be dealt with. In 1138, an earthquake in Syria occurred; its epicenter was located in Aleppo. This incident wiped out an approximated number of 230,000 people (Gates & Ritchie 127). Between 1330 and 1351, Europe lost about half of its population due to the bubonic plague, which was caused by pests like mice and rats. In 1556, China experienced the Shaanzi earthquake; as a consequence, about 830,000 people lost their lives. Next, a series of earthquakes took place between 1811 and 1812 in New Madrid demonstrated how dangerous nature can get (Kusky 55). Although those earthquakes did not kill many people because of the affected region’s sparse population, they shook a vast area. Three years later, in 1815, approximately 80,000 human lives were lost to the Tambora earthquake in Indonesia; the consequence of that disaster was famine.
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The next category of disasters comprises accidents that took place in the twentieth century. In this century, the world’s population had grown considerably; indeed, some of the disasters that claimed the biggest numbers of lives happened in this period. In 1931, the Yellow River flooded (Li 77). From the subsequent droughts, famines and disease outbreaks, it is estimated that between 1 and 3.7 million lives were lost. In 1976, an earthquake in Tangshan, China, killed somewhere between two hundred and seven hundred thousand people. Barely a decade later, in 1985, a Columbian volcano in Nevado del Ruiz buried about 25,000 people in a massive mudflow (Ragheb 45). Although it was not the most deadly of the twentieth century’s natural disasters, Hurricane Andrew destroyed property that was estimated at 25 billion US dollars, making it the most financially devastating natural disaster of its time.
The final category of natural disasters comprises those tragedies that have taken place in the twenty-first century so far. On the day after Christmas in 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean set up the massive Sumatran tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 225,000 people (Keedle 34). In 2005, Hurricane Katrina curved its place in the history of the United States as the most expensive tragedy (property damage was estimated at 80 billion dollars), with a death toll of about 1,800 lives. A few months later, in October 2005, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Pakistan killed about 40,000 people. In 2008, Cyclone Nigris killed as many as 140,000 people, most of them the residents of Maynmar.
Natural disasters have claimed so many lives that they have dwarfed the effect of the atomic bombs and trivialized most other causes of death. Of course, there have been natural disasters since the inception of life on Earth, but not all of them have been documented. Beyond the reaches of written history, many more natural disasters lie in oblivion masking the number of lives they have claimed. Despite the boons that nature keeps throwing at us to make our lives more bearable, it’s unpredictable moods keep reminding us, from time to time, how terrifying Mother Nature can get.
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