The severe natural disasters hitting different parts of the world every year is a sign of nature’s alarm in response to the human’s slumber about extraction and overuse of resources, which leads to factors like global warming and species extinction. Also, Nature has caused uncountable tragedies on Earth leading to massive destruction and human death. This is a sign of revenge from nature. Remember, whenever you chop a tree, you are chopping a hand of Mother Earth and she will cry for it. But, her cry would not be an easy one to bear by the human species. Therefore, let us have a look at the top natural disasters of the decade.
2010: Haiti Earthquake
Date and Time: January 12, 2010; 4:53 PM
Magnitude: Initial – 7.0, Aftershocks – 5.9, 5.5
Place: Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Number of people affected: 300,000 (as per Haitian Government)
Consequences: Localized Tsunami
The Haiti Earthquake occurred on the West Indian Island of Hispaniola which comprises the two affected countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This island has a history of destructive earthquakes. Out of the two, Haiti was the most severely affected one. Therefore, existing poverty and poor housing conditions increased the death toll from the disaster, which, together with the nation’s history of the national debt, foreign intervention into national affairs, and prejudiced trade policies by other countries contributed to the economic backwardness of the nation. Communication systems, land, air, and sea transport facilities, electrical networks, and hospitals had been damaged by the earthquake, which hampered rescue and aid efforts; confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with prioritizing flights further complicated early relief work.
2010: Chile Earthquake
Date and Time: February 27, 2010, 3:34 AM
Number of people affected: 2,000,000
The earthquake came with a magnitude of 8.8 with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes. It was felt in six Chilean countries that together make up about 80% of the country’s population. The losses to the economy were estimated at the US $15-30 billion. The earthquake caused widespread damage to land and initiated a tsunami that devastated some coastal areas of the country. This earthquake triggered a tsunami because the stress brought on by the convergence of the two tectonic plates caused rocks to shatter along the boundary between them which forced a portion of the seabed upward, displacing the water above. The electric grid was in a weakened state due to which many areas endured a week without power following the catastrophe.
2010: Russian Wildfires
Date: Late July 2010 – Early September 2010
Burned Area: 300,000 hectares
Fatalities: 54 in wildfires, 55,736 in a heatwave
Buildings Destroyed: 2,000
This disaster in Russia included several hundred wildfires that broke out across the country, mainly in the west in summer 2010. The wildfires started burning in late July and lasted until early September 2010, resulting in a drought. That summer was recorded as the hottest in the country because the fires were associated with record-high temperatures, which were attributed to climate change. As a response, President Dmitry Medvedev declared a state of emergency in seven regions across the country due to the wildfires and 28 other regions were under a state of emergency due to crop failures caused by the drought. The aggregate economic damage caused by the wildfires was estimated to be roughly $15 billion. The smoke from the fires produced heavy smog blanketing large urban areas and the record-breaking heatwave putting stress on the healthcare system of Russia.
2010-2011: Queensland Floods
Time: November 2010 – January 2011
Burned Area: 300,000 hectares
Fatalities: approx. 35
People affected: 200,000
Property Destroyed: $2.39 billion
When three eastern states of Australia were affected by floods, Queensland was the worst hit. This flood was one of the worst in the country’s history. Unusually heavy, prolonged, and sometimes torrential rains fell over some parts of Australia for several months in late 2010 and early 2011, making one of the causes behind the flood out of a combination of factors. The trade winds from the Pacific Ocean were also a reason behind this. In November and December, the rainfall was six times higher than the average rainfall in some regions. Agriculture and coal production, two of Queensland’s key economic activities, were severely affected. Because of mine closures and damaged rail lines, the mining and transport of coal were disrupted. The arrival of Tropical Cyclone Tasha compounded the effects of the flood. At the turn of the year, many towns were either isolated or submerged by water that reached near-record heights.
2011: Japan Earthquake & Tsunami
Date and Time: March 11 2011; 14:46 JST
Place: Northeast Japan
Number of people affected: 24,585
This earthquake is also known as the Great Sendai Earthquake and many other names are given to it like the Great East Japan Earthquake, etc. The event of destruction began with a powerful earthquake of 6 minutes which caused widespread damage on land and initiated a series of large tsunami waves that devastated many coastal areas of the country. Another fact to notice is that the tsunami also instigated a major nuclear accident at a power station along the coast. The affected region also experienced hundreds of aftershocks, dozens of magnitude 6.0 or greater, and some of magnitude 7.0. A report published by the National Police Agency of Japan listed 121,778 buildings as “total collapsed”, with a further 280,926 buildings “half collapsed”, and another 699,180 buildings “partially damaged”. The extensive and severe structural damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami also includes the damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Hence, according to the World Bank, this was the costliest natural disaster in history.
2011: New Zealand Earthquake
Date and Time: February 22, 2011; 23:51 UTC
Place: Christchurch, New Zealand
Number of people affected: 2000
This earthquake was a part of the series of earthquakes from early September 2010 to late December 2011. Hence, these were known as Canterbury earthquakes. Its depth and proximity to Christchurch contributed to substantial shaking, surface cracking, and liquefaction in the city and its surrounding area. Many people were killed outright as structures collapsed and debris fell in the streets, crushing cars and buses as well. One of the worst damages in this event was the collapse of the Canterbury Television building, in the city center, which was razed almost entirely. Also, on February 23, the next day after the quake, the Prime Minister declared a state of national emergency in the affected area. More than 1,000 New Zealand Defence Force personnel led the response, aided by more than 100 members of the Singaporean armed forces. Australia, Singapore, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries also sent hundreds of search-and-rescue workers.
2012: Hurricane Sandy
Date and Time: October 22–November 2, 2011
Max. Speed of Wind: 115 mph
Place: Eastern United States
Damage: more than $70 billion
Storm’s relentless rainfall and high winds generated flash flooding and coastal storm which killed 147 people and produced widespread property damage in the areas in its path. The fearing factor is that the storm measured more than 900 miles in diameter. Now, it was the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history. In the southern Haiti region, the high winds and torrential rainfall destroyed crops and blew away or washed away thousands of temporary structures that were being used to house refugees from the Haiti Earthquake of 2010. The bulk of storm-related injuries, property damage, and deaths occurred in the United States. The storm devastated a major portion of the population lost electric services and several cities and towns. All the modes of transport were put to a halt with more than 20,000 flights canceled. the property damage, estimated in the immediate aftermath of the storm, was between $30-50 billion.
2013: Typhoon Haiyan
Date and Time: Nov. 3, 2013 – Nov. 11, 2013
Max. Speed of Wind: 195mph – 145mph
Place: Southeast Asia
Damage: $2.98 billion
Super Typhoon Haiyan is also known as the Super Tycoon Yolanda in the Philippines. This name was given by the country’s atmospheric sciences agency. This was one of the most powerful storms ever tracked. More than 14 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. This typhoon was preceded by the word ‘super’ because of its high-speed winds. However, wind speed is not the factor that determines the destruction alone, there are some added factors of associated hazards like storm surge, flooding, and tornados. Another fact is that the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. The typhoon caused an oil spill in Iloilo and unhealthy amounts of benzene in the atmosphere. The country faced a humanitarian crisis days after the typhoon hit with millions of homeless people and more than 6,000,000 displaced.
2014: Ludian Earthquake
Date and Time: 3 August 2014; 08:03 UTC
Place: Yunnan, China
Number of people affected: nearly 4,000
Damage: $6 billion
The Ludian Earthquake struck the Ludian country, Yunnan, China with a 6.1 magnitude, killing at least 617 people and injuring at least 2,400 people. Over 12,000 houses collapsed and 30,000 were damaged. In the vicinity of the epicenter, the earthquake caused significant damage, principally in the city of Zhaotong, where serious structural damages and power outages were reported. In some areas, the roads were blocked due to collapsed buildings. The largest aftershock measured 4.2 magnitudes and there were others with magnitude 3.0, more than nine in number. Till 15 August 2014, Yunnan province had received 536 million Yuan as money in the donation and 50 million Yuan as donated goods.
2015: Nepal Earthquake
Date and Time: 25 April 2015; 11:56 NST
Place: Nepal, China, India, Bangladesh
Number of people affected: 8 million
Fatalities: 8,857 in Nepal
Damage: $10 billion
This earthquake was the deadliest one in the seismically active region in 81 years. It was a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that came toppling multi-story buildings in Kathmandu and creating landslides and avalanches in the Himalayan mountains. 17 days later, there was another major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3. Also, hundreds of aftershocks followed the main quake. 8 million people, about one-third of Nepal’s population, were affected. It accounted for 39 out of the nation’s 75 districts. In the 14 worst-hit districts, it destroyed and damaged more than 600,000 homes and 288,000 respectively. The nine-story Dharahara Tower and the famous Taleju Temple collapsed and filled the streets with bricks and other debris. As a result, humanitarian organizations responded quickly to the disaster with search and rescue teams and immediate aid deliveries.
2016: Ecuador Earthquake
Date and Time: 16 April 2016; 18:58 ECT
Place: Ecuador, Columbia, Peru
Number of people affected: 16,000
Fatalities: nearly 700
Damage: $2-$3 billion
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake on 16 April 2016 rocked Ecuador’s coast, injuring 6,000 people. As per estimations, the earthquake destroyed or badly damaged 35,000 houses leaving more than 100,000 people in need of shelter. It destroyed basic facilities like sanitation, water, and healthcare. Located along The Pacific Ring of Fire, Ecuador experiences small earthquakes each year. Also, the maximum force of the earthquake was in Manta, Pedernales, and Portoviejo. These three regions accounted for 75% of the total casualties. The earthquake was so strong that in some areas, it destroyed 90% of the infrastructure. As a result, President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency. The earthquake was presaged by a magnitude 4.8 foreshock eleven minutes before the main quake struck. It was followed by over fifty-five aftershocks in the next twenty-four hours.
2017: Hurricane Maria
Date and Time: September 16-October 2, 2017
Max. speed: 175 mph
Place: Dominica, Puerto Rico, St Croix
Damage: $91.61 billion
Less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma and a month after Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria hit numerous islands in the Caribbean. The storm doubled its strength in 24 hours on 18 September with sustained winds of 175 mph. The Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit called it “mind-boggling” devastation. Also, this hurricane was the strongest one on record to make landfall in Dominica. The French Island of Guadeloupe experienced widespread power outages after the hurricane. Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years. It destroyed roads, bridges, roads and knocked out power across the entire island. Residents lived through water and food shortages water-related disease outbreaks, generators running out of fuel, hospitals and schools closed due to extensive damage, and in the immediate aftermath, lack of access to the banking system. It also hit Caicos, Turks, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, causing widespread flooding.
2017: Hurricane Harvey
Date and Time: August 17– September 2, 2017
Max. speed: 130 mph
Place: Texas and Louisiana
Damage: $125 billion
Hurricane Harvey was a devastating hurricane that made landfall on Texas and Louisiana causing many deaths due to catastrophic flooding. Rainfall-triggered flooding caused the damage primarily in the Southeast Texas and Houston metropolitan area. Since Wilma 2005, it was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., ending a record of 12 years. Also, Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. Many areas faced power outrages for a long period due to heavy rain and flooding in the Caribbean and Latin America. The sight witnessed damaged bridges, blocked drains, and houses in serious conditions. Also, the hurricane washed off one house from its foundation and a church lost its roof. There were roof damages in the Presidential Palace also. Therefore, approximately 336,000 citizens had no electricity and tens of thousands required rescue throughout Texas.
2018: Greece Fires
Date and Time: 23 July-26 July 2018
People affected: more than 4,000
Known as the Attica wildfires, a series of wildfires in Greece began in the coastal areas of Attica in July 2018, during the 2018 European heatwave. The Attica wildfires were the second deadliest wildfires event in the 21st century. As per reports, wildfires affected more than 4,000 people. Greece deployed its entire fleet of fire-fighting aircraft and more than600 firefighters, as well as 250 fire engines. As a result, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a state of emergency in Attica announcing a three-day period of national mourning, stating in a televised address, “The country is going through an unspeakable tragedy”.
2018: Lombok Earthquake
Date and Time: 5 August 2018; 11:46 UTC
Place: Lombok, Bali, Indonesia
The epicenter of the Lombok Earthquake was located near Loloan Village in North Lombok Regency. It also caused a tsunami when the fault rupture spread to the north and reached the sea. People also reported strong shaking on the neighboring islands of Sumbawa and Bali. Reports stated that Tsunami damaged or destroyed at least 80% of structures in North Lombok. Lombok and Bali reported widespread damage. Officials reported more than 417,000 people as displaced. Therefore, this Lombok earthquake was the strongest and the largest earthquake to have hit Lombok in recorded history. Also, the most astonishing factor here is that by 18 August, people reported 664 aftershocks. Hence, most of them were below 5.9 magnitudes. Throughout Lombok, telecommunications went down and people reported blackouts.
2018: Australian Drought
Causes: Less rainfall, high temperature, dry winter
Places affected: South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia
Rainfall in 2108 was extremely low over the southeastern quarter of the Australian mainland, with much of the region experiencing totals in the lowest 10% of historical observations, and was particularly low over the mainland southeast from April onwards. The year 2018 was Australia’s third-warmest year on record. Also, the year ended with some record-breaking heat events. 2018 ended with a burst of heat over the Christmas-New Year period, with temperatures at least 10 degrees warmer than average across southern South Australia, most of Victoria, and southern NSW, leading to Australia’s warmest December on record. New South Wales, an area that produces about a quarter of Australia’s total agricultural output, was in 100% drought. Hence, failing crops, severe water shortages and inability to feed livestock were some miseries of the farmers.
2019: Amazon Fire
Dates: January-October 2019
Burned area: 906,000 hectares
Place: Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay
Land use: Agricultural Development
During the Amazonian dry season, the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires season saw a year-to-year surge in fires occurring in the Amazon biome within Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru, and the Amazon rainforest. Generally, People use slash-and-burn methods to clear the forest to make way for agriculture, logging, livestock, and mining, leading to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. It becomes a cause behind fires because they are usually in the dry season. Another cause behind the fires is the effect of climate change and global warming due to the unusually long dry season and above-average temperatures around the world throughout 2019. The increased rates of fire counts in 2019 led to international concern about the fate of the Amazon rainforest, which is the world’s largest terrestrial carbon dioxide sink and plays a significant role in mitigating global warming.
2019: Australian Bushfires
Dates: June 2019 – ongoing
Burned area: 18,636,079 hectares
Place: Australia (nationwide)
Fatalities: approximately 450
This season of bushfires is also the Black Summer. It began with several serious uncontrolled fires in June 2019. Hundreds of fires burnt throughout the summer, mainly in the southeast of the country. Therefore, the causes behind starting the fires were lightning and alleged arson. Some factors contributed to enhancing the fires. Hence, These include droughts, record-breaking heat, global warming, and positive Indian Ocean Dipole. The reports of 9 March 2020 state that the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes), and killed at least 34 people. Hence, approximately people killed 1 billion animals and some drove some endangered species to extinction.
Let us end this article with a poem on NATURE’S ALARM: