FSR Newsroom

Top 10 Natural Disasters by Death Toll

When we think of natural disasters, we rarely think of those that happen outside of North America. So we bring this list of disasters to your attention so you can see just how terrible disasters have been on other continents. Many of these have occurred in Asia some years ago, so they may not be immediately recognizable.

To put these disasters in context, Hurricane Katrina cost the Unites States just over 2,000 lives, which is still a terrible tragedy. But when compared to something like the Chinese floods of the 1930’s when 1-2 million people died, it hardly compares.

Thanks to modern infrastructure and good planning, the United States has greatly minimized the effects of natural disasters in terms of human loss. This list serves as reminder of just how deadly things can turn when people are caught unaware and unprepared.

Rank Death toll (estimate) Event Location Date
1. 1,000,000–2,500,000 1931 China floods China July, November, 1931
2. 900,000–2,000,000 1887 Yellow River flood China September, October, 1887
3. 830,000 1556 Shaanxi earthquake Shaanxi Province, China January 23, 1556
4. 500,000 1970 Bhola cyclone East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) November 13, 1970
5. 300,000 1839 India Cyclone India November 25, 1839
6. 230,210-310,000 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Sumatra, Indonesia and also affected India, Sri Lanka, Maldives December 26, 2004
7. 250,000–300,000 526 Antioch earthquake Antioch, Byzantine Empire (now Turkey) May 526
8. 242,419 (the death toll has been estimated to be as high as 665,000) 1976 Tangshan earthquake Tangshan, Hebei, China July 28, 1976
9. 234,117 1920 Haiyuan earthquake Haiyuan, NingxiaGansu, China December 16, 1920
10. 230,000 1138 Aleppo earthquake Aleppo, Syria October 11, 1138


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