What Are Natural Disasters?

Natural DisastersNatural disasters seem to be occurring with greater and greater frequency: the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, the Japanese tsunami in 2011. In spite of what the naysayers believe, the world has experienced disasters causing loss of human life and devastation of plant and animal life pretty much since the beginning. Even the end of the Dinosaur age is ascribed by many scientists today to an asteroid impact about 65 millions years ago. But have you ever wondered how many of the world's worst disasters have taken place in recent human history?

The Worst Natural Disasters Ever

1. Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, killed approximately 25 million people from around 1330 to 1350. Once thought to have been caused by rats, the Plague was actually spread by infected fleas (traveling on the backs of mice and rats, no doubt) and decimated Europe's population to the tune of 30-60%.

2. Eruption of Stroggli Island. Although not one of the more famous natural disasters like the eruption of Pompeii in 79 A.D., the explosion of Stroggli Island virtually wiped Cretan civilization off the face of the earth.

3. 1931 China Floods. Although exact numbers are hard to nail down, it's thought these floods may have killed up to 2.5 million people.

4. Shaanxi Province Earthquake, 1556. It is a testimony to Chinese civilization that the records include natural disasters, and that they go back long enough to note a large earthquake that killed somewhere around 800,000 people in the 16th century.

5. 1970 Bhola Cyclone. Nearly half a million people were killed in this hurricane near modern-day Pakistan.

6. 1839 India Cyclone. Already poor housing conditions and widespread poverty may have contributed to the death of around 300,000 people from this cyclone in 1839.

7. 2004 Indonesian Tsunami. The most recent of natural disasters on this list, the Indian Ocean tsunami affected India, Sri Lanka, and Sumatra. Final casualty numbers were around 250,000.

8. 526 A.D. Antioch Earthquake. Upon receiving the news that Antitoch had been destroyed by a major earthquake, the Emperor Justin I took off his crown and publicly lamented the loss of a quarter-million of his subjects.

9. 1976 Tangshan Earthquake. Nearly half of the natural disasters on this list are earthquakes, and 1.6 million of the casualties are due to quakes.

10. 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake. Interestingly, four of the 10 worst natural disasters in terms of human casualties also happened in China.

Some Natural Disasters Facts

Whether it's hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes, the fact is that there are few places on earth that are not susceptible to disasters of one kind or another. Although many people in the U.S. thought that they were immune to the effects of these catastrophes, events such as Hurricane Katrina and the recent tornadoes in the Midwest have shown that to be a false hope. One of the most important facts about natural disasters anyone can know is that one can happen anytime, anywhere - that's why they are referred to as an "Act of God." No matter how hard we try to prevent them by building stronger buildings or flood-proof construction, the frailty of human nature is never more apparent than in the face of Nature's wrath.

What is a "Natural" Disaster?

Although these are some of the more famous natural disasters in terms of casualties, the question arises whether it's still considered a disaster if no one was affected. Because the population of the world was widely scattered over the face of the globe for thousands of years, it's only in the last century or so that people have begun to be regularly affected by these events. The massive explosion in population around the world may be partly responsible for this impression that disasters are occurring more and more frequently and with greater severity.

A Few More Facts About Natural Disasters

Although modern-day weather forecasting has been able to give advance notice of cyclones, many disasters still strike with little or no warning. Earthquakes, for example, are still a largely unpredictable phenomenon, and few people realize that more places are at risk than they know. California is a well-known hotbed for tremors, but altogether there are 41 U.S. states considered at "moderate to very high earthquake risk" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

How To Avoid Being A Statistic

Among the many natural disasters facts often reported after the event is the number of casualties. Although the initial number of people that died is highly publicized, many times the conditions following natural disasters can kill even more. Lack of clean, fresh water; little to no basic medical supplies; and eventually the scarcity of food can be just as deadly as the initial disaster. How can you avoid becoming one of the numbers? Prepare ahead of time for natural disasters with an emergency supply kit, including things like water purification tablets, basic medical supplies, and at least a 3-day supply of food.

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