New technologies and increased attention to human rights have improved living conditions immeasurably over the past century, but natural disasters retain their destructive power.Read on to revisit the 10 worst natural disasters of the past decade.
2003: The European Heat Wave
The 2003 European Heat Wave was the hottest summer that Europe has experienced since 1540. This heat wave lead to health crises in several countries and also created drought which led to crop failure in parts of southern Europe. The death toll reached 70,000 people, with France being hit the hardest. Deaths were largely among elderly people.
2004: The Boxing Day Tsunami
Also known as the Indian Ocean Tsunami, this destructive wave was caused by an incredibly huge mega-thrust undersea earthquake that occurred on the 26th of December 2004, off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake caused enormous waves to completely devastate communities in countries which bordered the Indian Ocean and kill more than 230,000 victims in 14 different countries. Indonesia was hit the hardest, as well as Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, in what was one of the highest death-toll natural disasters in all of recorded history.
2005: Kashmir Earthquake
This earthquake was centered in Pakistan on the 8th of October 2005, and it was on the same scale as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The death toll was officially 75,000 and the damaged caused was severe. Because it was during the month of Ramadan many people were napping after the traditional meal before dawn and did not wake up to escape; they died trapped in their homes.
2005: Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane of the year 2005 and the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States. 1,833 people died and the property damage totaled $81 billion. Most deaths occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana which flooded when the levee system failed. Approximately 80% of the city was flooded and the city is still recovering from incredible property damage.
2008: Cyclone Nargis
Cyclone Nargis was the worst natural disaster in the recorded history of Burma. It caused at least 138,000 fatalities as well as catastrophic destruction. At the time, relief efforts were stifled because the military rulers of Burma resisted large-scale international aid. However, the military junta eventually accepted humanitarian aid. The exact final death toll numbers from this terrible disaster will never be known, but it is thought to be one of the deadliest tropical cyclones worldwide in recorded history.
2008: The Sichuan Earthquake
The 2008 Sichuan Earthquake shook the Sichuan province of China on May 12, 2008 and killed an estimated 68,000 people. This area of China had been largely untouched by China’s economic rise and health care was poor. Approximately five million people were left without housing and the economic loss totaled $75 billion dollars, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in Chinese history.
2010: The Haiti Earthquake
This catastrophic earthquake shook the island of Haiti on January 12, 2010 and killed approximately 220,000 people. It also did major damage to the buildings and infrastructure of the island. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and its emergency management and services struggled to cope with the disaster. Although medical aid was sent in, chaos and confusion were still abundant. There were too many bodies for the morgues to handle, so the corpses were stacked in the streets and then buried in mass graves.
2011: Great East Japan Earthquake
This earthquake, off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan in recorded history and the fifth most powerful earthquake in the last century. It killed 15,882 people and caused serious structural damage as well as several nuclear accidents and meltdowns at power plants.
2011: Christchurch Earthquake
The city of Christchurch, New Zealand was devastated by an earthquake on February 22, 2011 which was one of the deadliest peacetime disasters of the nation. It killed 185 people and caused widespread damage to the central city and eastern suburbs. The only earthquake that was deadlier in New Zealand’s history was the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake of 1931.
2011: Thailand Floods
During the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand, severe flooding occurred. Triggered by Tropical Storm Nockten, the floods spread through the provinces of northern, northeastern and central Thailand and resulted in the deaths of 815 people. This disaster has been described as the worst flooding yet in terms of amount of water and people affected.
These are 10 examples of terrible natural disasters of the past decade, in which mankind has been at the mercy of the destructive power of nature.
About the Author: Laura Simpson works in the field of emergency management and also writes about natural disaster and international aid.