The massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday may be the most powerful quake to strike the island nation in more than 200 years
When Nature unleashes her fury, humanity can seem instantly frail and subordinate. Cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes can kill thousands in moments. Often the final death tolls are never truly known.
Baring in mind that it is not possible to compare diverse disasters and develop any objective list of the worst.
January 12, 2010 – Casualties resulting from the Haiti quake are still unknown, but the Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million people may have been affected.
May 2, 2008 – The death toll from Cyclone Nargis remains uncertain but has been put at 140,000 or more. Caught with nowhere to run, residents of low-lying rice fields in Maynmar were simply swept away.
Oct. 8, 2005 – Magnitude-7.6 earthquake in Pakistan killed more than 40,000 people. The destruction was due in part to the quake’s shallow origin.
August 2005 – Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and is the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. More so than any U.S. disaster in recent decades, its effects linger even today as New Orleans and many coastal communities still struggle to get back on their feet.
Dec. 26, 2004 – The magnitude-9.3 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting Sumatran tsunami is estimated to have killed more than 225,000 people. It affected a broader region and more people than any modern disaster.
1992 – Hurricane Andrew killed 26, but property damage was $25 billion — most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history at the time.
1985 – Nevado del Ruiz (Columbia) volcano killed 25,000 people, most caught in a massive mudflow.
1976 – Tangshan earthquake in China, a magnitude-8 event, killed somewhere between 255,000 and 655,000.
1931 – Yellow River flood, estimated to have killed 1 million to 3.7 million people via drowning, disease, ensuing famines and droughts. The river also had flooded catastrophically in 1887, killing nearly as many.
1815 – Tambora, Indonesia, volcano of 1815. 80,000 people died of subsequent famine.
1811-12 – Three New Madrid earthquakes in Missouri represent some of the strongest earthquakes in the contiguous United States in recorded history.
1737 – Calcutta, India, event killed 300,000. Once thought to have been an earthquake, scientists now lean toward typhoon.
1556 – Shaanzi, China, earthquake killed 830,000. Nobody knows the seismic magnitude.
1330-1351 – The Black Death or Bubonic Plague, a pandemic caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis, killed an estimated 75 million people,
1138 – Aleppo earthquake in Syria, killed about 230,000. It is listed by the U.S. Geological Survey as the fourth deadliest earthquake of all time.
1500 B.C., or so – The Mediterranean Stroggli island blew up. A tsunami virtually wiped out Minoan civilization. Area now called Santorini; Plato called it the site where Atlantis disappeared.