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The Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters

The Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters
by Tim Pierce and , Copyright ©
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From the beginning of time we have experienced natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude and loss of human life.
These occurrences continue, no matter the preparations we make to protect ourselves, and many disasters can strike unexpectedly.

As the saying goes, history repeats itself. Christianity, one of the largest faith movements on Earth, believes that our entire civilization faces the worst natural disasters (and wars, famine, and disease) in future years still to come, warnings recorded in the Bible.

Whatever is going on, let's take a look back, both historically and in our modern day, at the top floods, earthquakes, fires, and other deadly disasters that have taken the lives of countless people and wiped cities, towns, and populations completely from the map.

Syria 8.5 Magnitude Earthquake - 1138

Loss of life: 230,000

On October 11, 1138, an earthquake of an estimated at 8.5 magnitude struck Aleppo, Syria (Aleppo sits in Northern Syria on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea).

Aleppo suffered extensive damage. A foreshock had hit the day before, on October 10th. Many of the townspeople took it as a warning and fled to the countryside for safety, before the deadly quake hit on October 11th. 230,000 people are believed to have lost their lives both in Aleppo and nearby towns.

What can we learn from this? These Syrians living in Aleppo in 1138 understood the dangers posed by their living structures. When threatened with a major earthquake, it may be best to leave the area, even for many people in the modern age, rather than risk being crushed by crumbling buildings and homes. In the modern age, there's also the risk of widespread fires from gas line ruptures, or in some areas, "inland tsunamis" caused by the destruction of dams and dikes, etc.

Of course, many large earthquakes give little or no warning; we may want to watch for "foreshocks" in the day or even hours before that could then signify maybe a large earthquake is coming down the pike. That is what saved the lives of those who fled Aleppo, Syria for the surrounding countryside the day of the foreshock, who escaped the massive earthquake that took the lives of so many people the next day.

Central China Floods - 1931

Loss of life: 1-4 million

In Central China, a two year drought was followed by markedly abnormal precipitation and weather. In July alone, the area was pummeled with seven cyclones, almost quadruple the norm. The Yangtze and Huai Rivers swelled and spilled over their banks and dikes. Death came through drowning or succumbing to waterborne diseases. Severe desperation by survivors brought on acts of cannibalism and infanticide.

What can we learn from this? If you live in an area near a major river or river system, there is always the risk that abnormal or "thousand year" weather event taking place (meaning, once in a thousand year occurrence, such as the Colorado floods that caused so much devastation in Colorado in September, 2013).

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You can avoid the the hunger by stockpiling food, but how do you protect that food and then access it when unexpected and fast rising flood waters suddenly hit your neighborhood?

Answer: When heavy rains begin, keep your weather radio nearby, and listen for reports of flood warnings, so you can evacuate the area anytime it looks like a flood may strike. An electric or gas powered Jon boat or other small, sturdy life raft or boat can be your means of escape, if you simply can't evacuate in time.

Prior to evacuation, quickly move your valuables and electronics to an upper-story or attic of your home. Also, be sure to hide valuables you can't take with you upstairs as well, in case looters strike your neighborhood after the flood waters recede, before you can get back to your home. Hide these valuables behind wall panels, behind insulation if possible, under carpet and floorboards, etc.

In an effort to fool possible looters, you can even make your home look like it was looted already by flipping furniture over, laying lamps on their sides, throwing papers and books across the floor, and emptying drawers throughout the house, opening cupboards, and finally even breaking a couple (cheap) items and leaving broken glass on the floor, etc. When looters kick in your door or glance through a window, your home will look like it's already been ransacked. Hopefully, they will move on, leaving your home alone.

Hwang Ho River, China - 1887

Loss of life: 900,000 - 2,000,000

The Hwang Ho River, known as the "Yellow River", travels over 3,395 miles from the Bayan Har Mountains to the Bohai Sea. The river assisted in the dawn of China's very existence but also its many woes. Around the end of September, 1887, the river overflowed the dikes located in China's Henan Province. The low lying land was quickly overcome by the waters devastating eleven large towns and hundreds of smaller villages. The flood and ensuing disease and famine claimed between 900,000 to 2,000,000 lives.

What can we learn from this? See above. Notice that the same even that struck the Hwang Ho River in 1887 is the same kind of event that struck central China in 1931.

Shaanxi Earthquake - 1556

Loss of life: 830,000

Shaanxi, China still holds the record for the deadliest earthquake in history. Though stronger quakes have occurred, this disaster devastated the densely populated area. The majority of people in the area up to the time of the quake resided in man made caves dug out of silt-like soil in the hillsides around the area, called yaodongs. Countless lives were lost when these dwellings collapsed.

The 8.0 magnitude earthquake also triggered landslides, further adding to the death toll.

What can we learn from this? Following the disaster, survivors of the Shaanxi earthquake looked to wood and bamboo as a means of rebuilding safer dwellings. At the same time, any area that can suffer a major earthquake in the near future (think earthquake prone areas of the world that sit on fault lines) may not be a good place to build homes at the top, or on the side, or at the bottom of hills, due to the threat of landslides. Consider that the next time you want to move to a house in the hills -- could a major earthquake strike the region, because it sits along a fault line?

Bhola Cyclone, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) - 1970

Loss of life: 500,000

The Bhola Cyclone struck November 12, 1970 in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) and India's West Bengal. It still holds the record as the deadliest cyclone ever. Half a million people perished largely due to flooding in the region. Nearly three quarters of the local fisherman perished in the storm while many of the survivors were left injured. Interestingly, seven of the nine most deadly tropical storms have struck Bangladesh. Presently, warning systems are in effect, allowing residents to flee to higher ground.

What can we learn from this? If you live in a coastal region, that has seen storms and flooding in the past, you may want to move inland, considering the likelihood of another major cyclone striking at some point.

In a time of the world seeing increasingly worse weather events, coastal, tropical areas are all possible targets, and susceptible to massive flooding. If you live in a coastal area of possible flooding from a cyclone, typhoon, or hurricane, etc., a weather radio may be all the advance warning you may be able to get, and so an AM/FM weather radio with alerts from the NOAA, and careful attention to your radio, may be what saves the day in this case. This Kaito emergency radio has 5 power sources including AA battery, internal battery (which you can charge with an AC adaptor), hand crank, solar, and even USB/Dynamo. With so many options for keeping it powered, this radio or one with similar capabilities is highly recommended.

Evacuating before the flood waters hit may be the only way you can be sure you can survive.

Great Tangshan Earthquake - 1976

Loss of life: 242,000

In the early morning hours of July 28, 1976, a violent 7.8 earthquake hit Tangshan, China. With most people tucked in bed, many were crushed by their own homes before they could react. A large industry in the area is mining and, ironically, only those deep in the earth working, resurfaced unharmed. Some 1,900 miners were fatally killed sleeping in their beds or from falling structures above ground. Just short of 80% of Tangshan's buildings were flattened or condemned as well as collapsed bridges, destroyed rail lines, and damaged wells. Today the city has been rebuilt and boasts a population of over one million people.

What can we learn from this? Is your home or building up to modern earthquake codes? Do you live along a fault line that experts say could experience an earthquake? Surviving a major earthquake event can really only come down to building construction and where you choose to live. As your home or building shakes, prayers for protection probably wouldn't hurt either.

Haiti Earthquake - 2010

Loss of life: 300,000

The massive Haitian earthquake hit January 12, 2010. The magnitude 7.0 quake came with a whopping fifty-nine aftershocks. Survivors took to the streets, moved into cars and created shanty houses, fearful of the stability of any remaining structures. The Haitian government claims over 300,000 lives were lost. Soon after the initial quake a tsunami warning was issued. Mercifully, the fear was short-lived and the warning was canceled. Just 10 months following the earthquake devastation, a Cholera outbreak began and continues today.

Over 8,000 additional lives have been lost. Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced by the earthquake, with many people today still living in makeshift tent cities, and dependent on foreign aid for food and medical help.

Following the earthquake, rape became a widespread occurrence, with reports of men raiding tents (in these tent cities that had sprung up following the quake). Women and young girls are taken, likely still to this day in places, even as families watch, often unwilling to intervene. Additional reports have been made that fathers and brothers of some of these female rape victims have been murdered in advance, to prevent them from stepping in to protect their daughters and sisters from rape at a later date.

What can we learn from this? Life following the Haiti earthquake shows that some elements of humanity can turn into absolute animals and pose a serious threat in the wake of disaster. Families with females should take extra precaution to protect from the threat of rape. Some of you reading this may not like this fact, but to ignore this risk is to put yourself and your family in peril.

The fact is this: If you ever find yourself in a tent city like environment following catastrophic disaster, extensive steps for security should be taken. Hair can be cut short, stage makeup used to make a woman look diseased (add stage makeup to your preps), men's clothes can be worn, etc.

"Disguise" has long been used by spies around the world, and in a time like this a good disguise, and a good act to go with it, can be what helps a number of females avoid being targeted for rape. A ghastly cough, dark rings around the eyes, and finally clothes that smell like dead fish or worse can be how you get females from point A to point B when traveling through a lawless area.

Coringa, India Cyclone - 1839

Loss of life: 300,000

Coringa, once a lively international shipping port in Andhra Pradesh, India, was essentially made desolate in 1839. On the 25th of November, a devastating cyclone struck the populated trading town. A storm surge increased the shore water level by forty feet. Some 20,000 boats and ships within the bay were destroyed. The storm, with violent winds and drowning waters, took the lives of 300,000 people. Little else is recorded about this storm.

What can we learn from this? Time and time again, we continue to see that populated areas of the world, near an ocean, can face devastating flood waters following a cyclone, typhoon, or hurricane, all similar weather events, just differing in name by where they strike in the world (location). Only relocation inland, well in advance, seems to be the best course of action.

Vietnam-Haiphong Typhoon - 1881

Loss of life: 300,000

Haiphong, located in North Eastern Vietnam suffered terrible flooding and destruction on October 8th, 1881. As the powerful tropical cyclone hit the Gulf of Tonkin, tidal waves made their way to the low-lying coastal town. Some sources claim residents refused to head inland despite warnings. Tragically, by the time the storm surge hit, many could not escape. A reported 300,000 died.

What can we learn from this? This sounds a lot like the story of the "boy who cried wolf". The warnings to evacuate had probably long before been heard over the years, in the wake of possible storms, and what happened in 1881 was the consequence of failing to evacuate, even after yet another warning that a typhoon was coming. A large number of people lost their lives that day. Maybe it's smarter to listen to warnings? Whether they come from news stations, your neighbor that old fisherman who has seen a lot of weather events over the years, or even a weather radio tuned to storm reports, listen to those warnings, and then take appropriate action.

Indonesian volcano, Krakatau - 1883

Loss of life: 36,000

The eruption of the Indonesian volcano, Krakatau, was so powerful that it was heard over 1,000 miles away in Perth, Australia. The massive eruption took place over two days, August 26-27, 1883. Two thirds of the island was destroyed, annihilating 165 towns and disabling an additional 132. The strength of the eruption produced a tsunami responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. From the caldera left by Krakatau was a born Anak Krakatau, meaning child of Krakatau, in 1927. Volcanic activity continues to this day.

What can we learn from this? Several regions of the world are known for volcanoes, even if a few of those volcanoes are reported as dead or dormant. Any number of events could suddenly bring one or more of these volcanoes back to life. The sudden massive eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 in Washington State is one example. Several volcanoes loom over west coast cities in Washington, Oregon, and California -- Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Crater Lake, Mount Shasta and Mammoth Mountain, included in a long list.

Most scientists would say a threat of volcanic activity would only come from one volcano, at any given time. But with weather events and other disasters taking place increasingly in the world, is anyone preparing for the possibility that the entire "ring of fire" around the Pacific Ocean could one day come to life, with multiple volcanoes erupting? Anything's possible it seems nowadays.

Violent Natural Disaster Society Should Fear Most? Floods

Looking at previous natural disasters that have taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and sometimes into the millions, and considering how many people can die in the weeks and months after the initial event, flood waters appear to have the potential to be a truly violent and costly natural disaster and take the most lives and destroy the most infrastructure.

A flood can be triggered by any number of events: That could be abnormal amounts of heavy rain that continue day after day; an earthquake or volcano eruption that triggers a large tsunami, or even an earthquake that destroys major dams, dikes, levees and other sea walls and man-made buffer zones.

Major dams exist across the United States. As reported in 2012, there are 13,991 dams across the U.S., with many listed as "high-hazard" due to aging. Earthquake prone areas of the country are at risk of dam failure, and heavily populated areas that lie in the path of dams may one day find themselves swept away, following a major earthquake.

Where's the nearest dam in your area of the country? The closer you live to a dam and where flood waters could be suddenly spilled, the more you should have plans for a prompt evacuation to high ground in the event of an earthquake or man-made disaster.

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