Natural disasters remind us that no matter what we may think, nature, not mankind is ultimately in charge. A natural disaster or catastrophe is defined as a major harmful event caused by a natural process of the earth. Examples of geological processes include earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, avalanches and volcanic eruptions. Weather related disasters include blizzards, extreme heat, hurricanes and tornados which can lead to flooding. Depending on the magnitude of the natural disaster, it can cause property damage, loss of life and severe economic damage that can be felt by a community for years before it fully recovers. In 2013, natural disasters cost a total of $192 billion with most of the economic damage occurring outside of the United States. The most expensive U.S. disaster was an EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma in May and racked up $3.8 billion in economic losses. Asia had eight of the most catastrophic natural disasters with the Philippines, Vietnam and China experiencing the most damage due to Typhoon Haiyan. A flood in June 2013 killed 6,748 in India and Nepal while 825 people were killed by an earthquake in Pakistan in September. However the most expensive natural disaster in 2013 was several floods that happened in Central Europe which ultimately suffered $22 billion in damage. Due to modern technology and early warning systems, we can be better prepare for a natural disaster and anticipate them but we can't prevent or accurately predict a natural disaster.
Volcanic ash covered everything in the village of Kinahrejo after Mount Merapi in Central Java, Indonesia erupted between late October 2010 to November 2010:
WHAT ARE THE DEADLIEST NATURAL DISASTERS IN HISTORY?
The worst natural disaster in terms of destruction and loss of life was the 1931 Central China floods that occurred in July and August 1931 when The Yangtze and Huai River flooded resulting in an estimated death toll of 1,000,000–4,000,000 people. Poor China has also been the location for several other historical natural disasters including the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake on January 23, 1556 during the Ming Dynasty. More than 97 counties in 10 provinces were affected and 830,000 people were killed. On July 28, 1976 near Tangshan in Hebi, an earthquake hit this industrial city located in Northwest China. The death toll was estimated at between 242,000 to 655,000 people. On December 16, 1920, 273,400 died in an earthquake in Haiyuan County in the northern Ningxia Province. Perhaps there’s a reason the Chinese started having so many babies. The other worse natural disasters in history happened on November 13, 1970 when the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded hit Bangladesh and killed 500,000–1,000,000. Cyclones also hit Coringa, Andhra Pradesh in India on November 25, 1839 killing 300,000 wiping out this harbor city and another cyclone struck Calcutta on October 7, 1737 also killing 300,000 people. If you really want to go back in time, in May 526, an earthquake killed 250,000–300,000 people in what was then the Byzantine Empire and is now Turkey. On December 13, 115, an earthquake took 260,000 lives when it struck what was then the Roman Empire and is now Turkey. It’s safe to say that Turkey should really look into some state of the art earthquake predication equipment.
Avalanches look pretty but they are deadly:
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE WORSE NATURAL DISASTER VIDEOS IN RECENT HISTORY?
Although natural disasters have been devastating various parts of the world for centuries, it’s only been in the modern era that mankind has been able to record them on video as they are occurring and mobile technology makes it supremely easy to record a natural disaster even when you are in the middle of one. Here are some of the most catastrophic recent natural disasters captured on video:
2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami
One of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history happened on Sunday, December 26, 2004 when a 9.0 earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean. The undersea earthquake struck at 7:58 AM local time with an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It lasted between 8.3 and 10 minutes and created a series of deadly 100 feet tsunami waves that affected 14 countries and killed over 230,000 people. Various videos were filmed by survivors who captured everything from the huge approaching waves to the destruction it left behind. Most of the modern world had never seen a tsunami and nor its destructive power. This disaster definitely schooled everybody that tsunamis are real and something not to be ignored.
2005 Hurricane Katrina
Katrina is one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history and ranks as the country’s costliest natural disaster. At least 1,838 people died in several states with most of the fatalities (1,577) occurring in Louisiana. The estimated total property damage is $108 billion and it took the city of New Orleans years to rebuild. Katrina struck on August 29, 2005 causing 53 levees in New Orleans to break resulting in massive floods that resulted in deaths and destroyed homes. The aftermath left thousands of people without electricity, food and water prompting then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to describe Hurricane Katrina as "probably the worst catastrophe, or set of catastrophes," the U.S. has ever experienced. There is a variety of video footage available on the internet shot by amateurs, stormchasers and news crews in several states documenting the severe storms, the flooding and the aftermath of Katrina’s destruction.
This video focuses on the Coast Guard rescue efforts after Katrina:
2008 Chengdu Earthquake
Also known as the Wenchuan earthquake, the 8.0 Sichuan earthquake hit Wenchuan County located in the Sichuan Province in Southwest China at 2:28 PM local time on May 12, 2008 killing 69,195 people, leaving 18,392 missing, injuring 374,176 and leveled massive amounts of large buildings and homes. The epicenter was 50 miles northwest of Chengdu, the province’s capital and severe aftershocks, some 6.0 on the Richter Scale continued to hit the area months after the May 12th quake, causing more damage and new casualties. Video is available from domestic and foreign news agencies, documentarians in addition to raw footage from survivors. Perhaps the most heartwrenching videos are the footage of parents as they wait for relief workers to dig through a school’s rubble to see if their one and only child survived the quake.
2010 Haiti earthquake
A catastrophic 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti at 4:53 local time on January 12, 2010 devastating this small Caribbean country and prompting a worldwide appeal for humanitarian aid and relief efforts. The epicenter was near the town of Léogâne about 16 miles west of Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Since the quake hit a densely populated area, an estimated 160,000 people died and an estimated total of 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings were either severely damaged or had collapsed. Landmark buildings including the Presidential Palace and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral were damaged and among those killed were public and political figures such as the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot, a number of famous Haitian musicians, sports stars and United Nations personnel. Video from the earthquake include shots of the dead lying under broken buildings, the injured being rescued and massive relief efforts in various forms responding to the call for medical aid.
2011 Sendai, Japan Tsunami
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake occurred at 2:46pm local time in the Pacific Ocean approximately 81 miles off the coast of Sendai, Japan. It lasted around 6 minutes and its epicenter was about 45 miles east of the Tohoku peninsula. The earthquake created a devastating 23 foot tsunami near the Tohoku region located about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo. The wave swept through the port cities of Iwate, Miyako and the surrounding areas. This disaster was historically Japan’s largest earthquake and it killed 15,839 people, injured 5,950 and left 3,642 people missing. The quake also caused failure issues at several nuclear facilities with the largest danger occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station where the cooling system in one of the reactors failed, followed by an explosion and partial meltdowns in two other reactors. Video footage shot during the tsunami shows giant waves sweeping away everything in its path including buildings, vehicles and swallowing whole towns leaving behind massive destruction.
HOW TO SURVIVE A NATURAL DISASTER
Experts say that being prepared for a natural disaster is the best way to survive one. Although some natural disasters give little warning and come in all shapes and sizes, if you live in an area that’s at risk, it’s best to have a survival plan and kit in place and to listen and follow all warnings. Being prepared for these events can also help you and your family be in a better position to handle post disaster situations and recover quicker. Making sure you have enough clean drinking water is essential. People can survive weeks without food but can only go a couple of days without water and just one day in extreme heat can kill a person. Formulate a disaster communication plan with your family and agree on a central meeting place including contact information of relatives and family friends. This is especially useful if technology and local communications are not working. Review what natural disasters you are at risk for and prepare accordingly. For example if you are at risk for flooding, have life preservers and axes where you can easily access them. During Katrina, many were stuck in their homes during the floods because they couldn’t get out or they couldn’t survive the overwhelming waters. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes and tornados, having a storm shelter stocked with food and water is essential to survival. Once again, paying attention to official warnings and following instructions is key to surviving a natural disaster. It’s why you pay your tax dollars.