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]

Notes: 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.[1]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000[2][nb 1] 1931 China floods China July 1931
2. 900,000–2,000,000[3] 1887 Yellow River flood China September 1887
3. 830,000[4] 1556 Shaanxi earthquake China January 23, 1556
4. 500,000[2] 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 13, 1970
5. 300,000 1839 India cyclone[5] India November 26, 1839
1737 Calcutta cyclone[6] India October 7, 1737
7. 273,400[7] 1920 Haiyuan earthquake China December 16, 1920
8. 250,000–300,000[8] 526 Antioch earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) May 526
9. 242,769–655,000 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976
10. 227,898 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004

Ten deadliest natural disasters since 1900[edit]

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

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event* Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000 1931 China floods China July 1931
2. 500,000[2] 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 1970
3. 273,400 1920 Haiyuan earthquake China December 16, 1920
4. 242,769–655,000 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976
5. 229,000 Typhoon Nina—contributed to Banqiao Dam failure China August 7, 1975
6. 227,898 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004
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

Lists of natural disasters by cause[edit]

Deadliest earthquakes[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 830,000 1556 Shaanxi earthquake China January 23, 1556
2. 242,769–655,000[11] 1976 Tangshan earthquake China July 28, 1976
3. 273,400[7] 1920 Haiyuan earthquake Ningxia, China December 16, 1920
4. 250,000–300,000[8] 526 Antioch earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) May 526
5. 260,000[12] 115 Antioch earthquake Roman Empire (now Turkey) December 13, 115
6. 230,000 1138 Aleppo earthquake Zengid dynasty (now Syria) October 11, 1138
7. 227,898 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake Indonesia December 26, 2004
8. 200,000 1303 Hongdong earthquake[13] Mongol Empire (now China) September 17, 1303
856 Damghan earthquake Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) December 22, 856
1780 Tabriz earthquake[14] Iran January 8, 1780
11. 160,000[9] 2010 Haiti earthquake Haiti January 12, 2010
12. 150,000 893 Ardabil earthquake Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) March 23, 893
13. 142,807[15][16] 1923 Great Kantō earthquake Japan September 1, 1923
14. 130,000[17] 533 Aleppo earthquake Byzantine Empire (now Syria) November 29, 533
15. 123,000[2] 1908 Messina earthquake Italy December 28, 1908
16. 110,000 1948 Ashgabat earthquake Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union (now Turkmenistan) October 5, 1948
17. 100,000 1290 Chihli earthquake Mongol Empire (now China) September 27, 1290
2005 Kashmir earthquake[citation needed] Pakistan (Azad Kashmir) October 8, 2005
19. 87,587[18][19] 2008 Sichuan earthquake China May 12, 2008
20. 80,000 1721 Tabriz earthquake[20] Iran April 26, 1721
458 Antioch earthquake[21] 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[22][23] Zengid dynasty (now Syria) 1169
25. 77,000 1727 Tabriz earthquake Iran November 18, 1727
26. 73,000[24] 1718 Gansu earthquake Qing Empire (now China) June 19, 1718
27. 70,000 1970 Ancash earthquake[25] Peru May 31, 1970
1033 Ramala earthquake[26] Fatimid Caliphate (now West Bank) December 10, 1033
847 Damascus earthquake[27] Abbasid Caliphate (now Syria) 847
1868 Ecuador earthquakes[28] Ecuador August 15, 1868August 16, 1868
31. 60,000 587 Antioch earthquake[29] Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) September 30, 587
1101 Khorasan earthquake[30] 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
36. 50,000 844 Damascus earthquake[31] Abbasid Caliphate (now Syria) September 18, 844
1042 Tabriz earthquake[32] Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) November 4, 1042
1783 Calabrian earthquakes Kingdom of Naples (now Italy) 1783
1990 Manjil–Rudbar earthquake Iran June 21, 1990
40. 40,000–50,000[33] 1755 Lisbon earthquake Portugal November 1, 1755
41. 45,000 850 Iran earthquake[34] Abbasid Caliphate (now Iran) July 15, 850
856 Corinth earthquake[35] Byzantine Empire (now Greece) November 856
856 Tunisia earthquake[36][37] Abbasid Caliphate (now Tunisia) December 3, 856
44. 42,571[38] 1668 Shandong earthquake Qing Empire (now China) July 25, 1668
45. 40,900 1927 Gulang earthquake Gansu, China May 22, 1927
46. 40,000 342 Antioch earthquake[39] Roman Empire (now Turkey) 342
662 Damghan earthquake[40] Umayyad Caliphate (now Iran) April 26, 662
1455 Naples earthquake[41] Crown of Aragon (now Italy) December 5, 1455
1754 Cairo earthquake[42] Ottoman Empire (now Egypt) September 2, 1754
1755 Tabriz earthquake[43] Iran June 7, 1755
1797 Riobamba earthquake Spanish Empire (now Ecuador) February 4, 1797

Deadliest famines[edit]

Note: Some of these famines may have been 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[44] 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 British 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. 5,000,000–8,000,000 Soviet famine of 1932–1933 (Holodomor in Ukraine) Soviet Union 1932–1934
9. 5,250,000 Indian Great Famine of 1876–78 British 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 famine of 1942–43 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 British 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 British 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[45][46]
3. 10+ China 616 CE a large meteorite fell onto the rebel Lu Ming-Yueh's camp, destroying a wall-attacking tower[46]
4. 2 Malacca ship, Indian Ocean 1648 2 sailors killed on board a ship[46]
Podkamennaya Tunguska River, Siberia, Russian Empire 1908 Tunguska event[45]
6. 1 Cremona, Lombardy, Italy 1511 a monk and several animals were killed by stones weighing up to 50 kg[46]
Milan, Italy 1633 or 1664 a monk died after being struck on the thigh by a meteorite[46]
Gascony, France 1790 a farmer was reportedly struck and killed by a meteorite[46]
Oriang, Malwate, India 1825 [45][47]
Chin-kuei Shan, China 1874 a cottage was crushed by a meteorite, killing a child[45][48]
Newtown, Indiana, United States 1879 a man was killed in bed by a meteorite[45]
Dun-le-Poëlier, France 1879 a farmer was killed by a meteorite[45]
Zvezvan, Yugoslavia 1929 a meteorite hit a bridal party[45]

Deadliest limnic eruptions[edit]

Note: Only 2 cases in recorded history.

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,744 Lake Nyos Cameroon August 21, 1986
2. 37 Lake Monoun Cameroon August 15, 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. 1,000 Cloquet Fire[49] 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. 240 1997 Indonesian forest fires[50][49] Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia September 1997
7. 223 Matheson Fire Ontario, Canada July 29, 1916
8. 191 Black Dragon Fire[50][49] China May 1, 1987
9. 180 Black Saturday bushfires[50][49] Australia February 7, 2009
10. 160–300 Miramichi Fire Canada October 7, 1825
11. 99 2018 Attica wildfires Greece July 23, 2018
12. 87 Great Fire of 1910 Montana and Idaho, United States August 20, 1910
13. 84 2007 Greek forest fires[50] Greece June 28, 2007
14. 82 1949 Landes forest fire France August 19, 1949
15. 75 Ash Wednesday bushfires[50] Australia February 16, 1983
16. 73–200 Great Porcupine Fire Canada July 11, 1911
17. 71 Black Friday bushfires Australia January 13, 1939
18. 66 2017 Portugal wildfires Portugal June 17, 2017
19. 62 1967 Tasmanian fires Australia February 7, 1967
20. 60 1926 Victorian bushfires Australia January 26, 1926
21. 57 1991 Indonesian forest fires[50] Indonesia August 1991
22. 56 1992 Nepal wildfires[50] Nepal March 1992
23. 54 2010 Russian wildfires[50] Russia July 29, 2010
24. 49 October 2017 Iberian wildfires Portugal and Spain October 15, 2017
25. 44 Mount Carmel forest fire Israel December 2, 2010
October 2017 Northern California wildfires California, United States October 8, 2017

Ten deadliest avalanches / landslides[edit]

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 100,000 1786 Dadu River landslide dam; triggered by the 1786 Kangding-Luding earthquake[51] China 1786
1920 Haiyuan landslides; triggered by the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake[51] China 1920
3. 22,000 1970 Huascarán avalanche; triggered by the 1970 Ancash earthquake[52] Peru 1970
4. 10,000–30,000 Vargas tragedy[53] Venezuela 1999
10,000 White Friday avalanches[54][55] Italy 1916
6. 5,000–28,000 Khait landslide[56][57] Tajikistan 1949
7. 4,000–6,000 1941 Huaraz avalanche[58] Peru 1941
4,000 1962 Huascarán avalanche[52] Peru 1962
9. 3,466 1310 Western Hubei landslide[51] China 1310
10. 3,429 1933 Diexi landslides[51] China 1933

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 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. 286 December 1960 nor'easter United States 1960
8. 250 Great Lakes Storm of 1913 United States and Canada (Great Lakes region) 1913
9. 235 Schoolhouse Blizzard United States 1888
10. 201 North American blizzard of 1966 United States 1966

Ten deadliest floods[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.
This 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).

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,000,000–4,000,000[59] 1931 China floods China 1931
2. 900,000–2,000,000 1887 Yellow River (Huang He) flood China 1887
3. 229,000[60] 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. >100,000 St. Felix's Flood, storm surge Holy Roman Empire 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 Holy Roman Empire 1287
9. 60,000 North Sea flood, storm surge Holy Roman Empire 1212
10. 36,000 St. Marcellus flood, storm surge Holy Roman Empire 1219

Ten deadliest heat waves[edit]

Note: 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[61]
6. 2,541 1998 India heat wave India 1998[61]
7. 2,500 2015 Indian heat wave India 2015
8. 2,000 2015 Pakistan heat wave Pakistan 2015
9. 1,700–5,000 1980 United States heat wave United States 1980
10. 1,718[62] 2010 Japanese heat wave Japan 2010

Ten deadliest pandemics / epidemics[edit]

Death counts are historical totals unless indicated otherwise.

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 300,000,000 approx. Smallpox Worldwide 1900 to eradication.[63] Declared eradicated May 8, 1980.[64]
2. 200,000,000 Measles Worldwide last 150 years[65]
3. 100,000,000 approx. Black Death Worldwide 1300s–1720s
4. 80,000,000–250,000,000 Malaria Worldwide 20th century – present
5. 50,000,000–100,000,000 Spanish Flu Worldwide 1918–1928
6. 40,000,000–100,000,000 Plague of Justinian Asia, Europe, Africa 540–590
7. 40,000,000–100,000,000 Tuberculosis Worldwide 20th century – present[65]
8. 30,000,000[66] AIDS pandemic Worldwide 1981–present
9. 12,000,000 Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague Worldwide 1850s–1950s
10. 5,000,000 Antonine Plague Roman Empire 165–180

Ten deadliest tornadoes[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 1,300 The Daulatpur–Saturia 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 (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 tornado Soviet Union (now Russia) 1984
10. 317 The Great Natchez tornado United States (MississippiLouisiana) 1840

Ten deadliest tropical cyclones[edit]

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

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. ≥500,000 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 13, 1970
2. 300,000 1737 Calcutta cyclone[6] India October 7, 1737
1839 India Cyclone[5] India November 25, 1839
4. 229,000 Super Typhoon Nina—contributed to Banqiao Dam failure China August 7, 1975
5. 200,000[67] Great Backerganj Cyclone of 1876 India (now Bangladesh) October 30, 1876
6. 150,000 (30,000 to 300,000)[68] 1881 Haiphong Typhoon Vietnam October 8, 1881
7. 138,866 1991 Bangladesh cyclone Bangladesh April 29, 1991
8. 138,373 Cyclone Nargis Myanmar May 2, 2008
9. 100,000 July 1780 typhoon[69] Philippines 1780

Ten deadliest tsunamis[edit]

Note: A possible tsunami in 1782 that caused about 40,000 deaths in the Taiwan Strait area may have been of "meteorological" origin (a cyclone).[70]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 227,898 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami Indian Ocean December 26, 2004
2. 123,000[2] 1908 Messina earthquake Italy December 28, 1908
3. 36,417–120,000 1883 eruption of Krakatoa Indonesia August 26, 1883
4. 40,000–50,000[33] 1755 Lisbon earthquake Portugal November 1, 1755
5. 30,000-100,000 (est.) Minoan Eruption Greece 2nd Millennium BC
6. 31,000 1498 Meiō Nankaidō earthquake Japan September 20, 1498
7. 30,000 1707 Hōei earthquake Japan October 28, 1707
8. 27,122[71] 1896 Sanriku earthquake Japan June 15, 1896
9. 25,674 1868 Arica earthquake Chile August 13, 1868
10. 5,700[72]–50,000[73] 365 Crete earthquake Greece July 21, 365

Ten deadliest volcanic eruptions[edit]

Rank Death toll Event Location Date
1. 71,000+[74] 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora (see also Year Without a Summer) Indonesia April 10, 1815
2. 36,000+[75] 1883 eruption of Krakatoa Indonesia August 26, 1883
3. 30,000[76] Mount Pelée Martinique May 7, 1902
4. 23,000[77] Armero tragedy Colombia November 13, 1985
5. 15,000[78] 1792 Unzen earthquake and tsunami Japan May 21, 1792
6. 10,000 Mount Kelud Indonesia 1586
7. 6,000[79] Santa Maria Guatemala October 24, 1902
8. 5,000[80] Mount Kelud Indonesia May 19, 1919
9. 4,011[81] Mount Galunggung Indonesia 1822
10. 3,500 El Chichón Mexico 1982

See also[edit]

Other lists organized by death toll

Notes[edit]

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

References[edit]

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