Deadliest Natural Disasters of the Past 50 Years

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In October, tens of millions were left homeless and more than 1,700 people were killed in Pakistan during intense rainfall and runoff from melting glaciers that overflowed the banks of the 1,900-mile-long Indus River, inundating a third of the world’s fifth-most-populous country.

UNICEF warned that 16 million children in Pakistan are now facing acute malnutrition and disease as the country cleans up from what Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif described as the country’s worst flooding since its foundation in 1947. The World Bank estimates the country faces $30 billion in damages and economic losses from the deluge.

The 2022 Pakistan floods may be considered one of the worst natural disasters ever, but they pale in comparison to some other catastrophes of the past half-century, including the 2005 earthquake that rattled the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India, killing about 88,000 people and toppling tens of thousands of buildings, leaving millions homeless.

But that disaster isn’t one of the deadliest to strike over the past half-century, either. To compile a list of the 10 deadliest natural disasters since 1970, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a list compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, an insurance industry association. The list excludes natural disasters caused by a drought or heatwave events. 

It turns out that nine of the world’s 10 deadliest natural catastrophes have struck in Asia. In the 1970s, China was hit by a devastating super typhoon and, a year later, an earthquake that together killed more than 470,000 people. In 2008, China was hit again, when the Sichuan quake claimed nearly 90,000 lives. (Read about the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded.)

The deadliest natural disaster of all pummeled Bangladesh in 1970, when Cyclone Bhola slammed into the country’s low-lying coastal areas, lobbing 20-foot-tall storm surges into impoverished communities whose inhabitants had no escape. The tempest killed 300,000 people. (These are the countries where the most people have died in natural disasters.)

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