Top 10 Natural Disasters

10. East Africa Drought (2011)

The worst drought in 60 years, the Horn of Africa experienced a severe drought since mid-July of 2011 with an estimated 12.4 million people in need of food. It resulted in a food crisis across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, threatened the livelihood of more than 9.5 million people, and caused widespread death and famine.

9. North Korean Famine (1994)

Recognized as the “Arduous March”, this famine devastated North Korea from 1994 to 1998 and had an estimated death toll of between 240,000 and 3,500,000 due to starvation and hunger-related illnesses. Out of its 24 million people, 5 million are malnourished including 800,000 children with 80,000 on the brink of starvation. Everyone felt the impact of the famine, but those who are further from the capital suffered greater. Food assistance was given by the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and other European Union countries, which continued until 2002 when the North Korean government requested to stop the deliveries of these food supplies.


8. European Heat Wave (2003)

Europe is not too used to scorching hot summers so when the 2003 European heat wave struck, it resulted in a health crisis in several countries as well as a drought which led to crop shortage, especially in Ukraine where 75% of wheat crops were lost. The hottest since 1540, at least 14,802 casualties recorded in France alone with victims coming from old people in nursing homes, or single family homes with no air-conditioning systems. The extreme temperatures also dried up most of Europe, which resulted in forest fires and counterintuitively, even flooding.

7. Yangtze River Floods (1931)

When torrential rains hit southern China in August 1931, it caused the Yangtze River to flood killing nearly 3.7 million people. This was considered the worst natural disaster of the 20th century.

6. Mozambique Flood (2000)

Occurring between the months of February and March in 2000 the catastrophic flooding was caused by torrential rainfall that lasted for 5 weeks. It made many people homeless as it affected 1,400 sq km of arable land, killing 800 people and 20,000 cattle.

5. Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.


4. The Great White Plague (1600’s)

This tuberculosis epidemic in Europe during the 17th century lasted for nearly 200 years. It was the leading cause of death in 1650 and very likely propagated due to poor sanitary conditions.

3. Gujarat Earthquake (2001)

This earthquake happened on India’s 51st Republic Day celebration in January 26, 2001. The quake, which had a magnitude between 7.6 and 7.7, lasted for over 2 minutes with the epicenter about 9 km south-southwest of the Chobari village. It resulted in a death toll of 20,000 people, injured 167,000 and destroyed 400,000 homes. It also caused major shock waves that spread 700 km where 21 districts were affected and left 600,000 people homeless.

2. 1931 China floods

The 1931 China floods or the 1931 Yellow River floods were a series of devastating floods that occurred in the Republic of China. The floods are generally considered the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded, and almost certainly the deadliest of the 20th century (when pandemics and famines are discounted). Estimates of the total death toll range from 145,000 to between 3.7 million and 4 million.


1. Spanish Influenza

St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the American Influenza epidemic. 1918. mask-wearing women holding stretchers at backs of ambulances. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The first wave of the Spanish flu, which is one of the several types of influenza viruses, might have begun in March 1918 and began to spread throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. A contagious illness, it was responsible for the death of 20 million to 40 million people, though other estimates range from 40 million to 100 million people.