The worst natural disasters of 2019: From Hurricane Maria to the Haiti Earthquake
From the tsunami that struck Japanese shores in 2011 to the cyclone that devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in 2017, this decade saw nature at its very worst.
The 2010s have been quite the tumultuous decade, even by humanity's standards, with political unrest and a constantly-growing uneasiness about climate change arguably taking center stage. But even in such times, it would do us good to remember that, in the end, we are on this planet only at its behest. Cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes -- it just takes one to forever change the landscape, and there have been warning signs.
These natural disasters often caused unthinkable levels of damages and served as a warning that everything could change within the span of a single day.
#10 Ludian earthquake (2014)
The Ludian earthquake that struck Ludian County, Yunnan, China, measured 6.1 on the Richter Scale and killed at least 617 people. It also injured 2,400 people, destroyed 12,000 houses, damaged a further 30,000, and resulted in $6 billion in damages. In the aftermath, the Chinese government had to set up over 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, and 3,000 cots to provide shelter for the displaced and homeless.
#9 Equador earthquake (2016)
The 2016 Equador earthquake was a very large thrust earthquake that occurred on April 16 that year with a magnitude of 7.8 and was centered just 110 miles from the capital city of Quito. It destroyed Manta's central commercial shopping district Tarqui -- which had a population of around 830,000 people -- and also caused severe damage across the country's Manabi province. At least 676 people were killed and another 16,600 were injured, and 13,500 military personnel had to be dispatched for recovery operations.
#8 Cyclone Idai (2019)
Cyclone Idai brought with it sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) and caused severe flooding in Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. It killed at least 1,300 people and affected three million others and a cholera outbreak that followed shortly after saw more than 4,000 confirmed cases. Total damages were said to be at least $2.2 billion, and it was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the southern hemisphere.
#7 Typhoon Bopha (2012)
Typhoon Bopha made landfall as a Category 5 super typhoon with winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to ever affect the southern Filipino island of Mindanao. It destroyed houses, disrupted communications, caused power outages, flooding, and uprooted trees, while also leaving thousands of people homeless and killing 1,901. Damages were estimated at $1.16 billion.
#6 Hurricane Maria (2017)
Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 hurricane that devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico after making landfall in Dominica on September 18, 2017. Winds measuring at 175 mph (280km/h) caused catastrophic destruction of property and killed an estimated 3,100 people. Total losses are estimated at $91.61 billion and it is considered as the worst natural disaster in recorded history to affect those islands.
#5 Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami (2018)
On September 28, 2018, a series of foreshocks -- the largest of which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale -- preceded what ultimately turned out to be a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the neck of the Minahasa Peninsula in Indonesia, and triggered a tsunami that swept away houses and buildings on the shore. The combined effects of both led to the deaths of approximately 4,300 people and made it the deadliest earthquake of the year, as well as the deadliest to strike the country since the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake.
#4 Typhoon Haiyan (2013)
Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones recorded in human history, and after making landfall, became the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record. The typhoon, which brought winds of 145 mph (230 km/h), made landfall in the Philippines at Guiuan, Eastern Samar at peak strength on November 7, 2013, and killed over 6,300 people. It went on to strike Vietnam as a severe tropical storm on November 10, and according to UN estimates, is believed to have affected as many as 11 million people.
#3 Nepal earthquake (2015)
The Nepal earthquake that hit close to Gorkha on April 25, 2015, measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and was the worst natural disaster in the country since the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake. It killed nearly 9,000 people and injured a further 22,000, and also triggered a massive avalanche on Mount Everest that killed another 21 people. A major aftershock that struck on May 12 measured 7.3 on the Richter scale and resulted in the deaths of another 200, as well as the injury of 2,500 people. The damage was estimated at $10 billion, about 50% of Nepal's nominal GDP.
#2 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (2011)
The Tōhoku earthquake was a 9.1-magnitude undersea megathrust earthquake that struck off the coast of Tōhoku on March 11, 2011, and was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the country and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world. It triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 133 feet and killed 15,898 and injured a further 6,000. Insured losses were estimated at $34.6 billion, with the World Bank estimating that the economic cost was $235 billion, making it the costliest natural disaster in history.
#1 Haiti earthquake (2010)
The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, was a 7.0-magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was just 16 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, with 52 further aftershocks of 4.5 or greater also hitting the country in the next two weeks. Official government death toll estimates range from 220,000 to 316,000 people, with a further three million also affected. It also destroyed 250,000 homes, 316,000 commercial buildings and resulted in $8.5 billion in damages.