Worst disasters – lives lost (U. S.)



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WORST DISASTERS – LIVES LOST (U.S.)

Wayne Blanchard, Ph.D., CEM, FEMA Emergency Management Higher Education Project



July 5, 2006 Draft


  1. Influenza Pandemic, September 1918 – April 1919 -- 675,000

  2. Smallpox, 1775-1782 -- 130,000

  3. Influenza Epidemic, 1957 -- 70,000

  4. Influenza Epidemic, 1968 -- 28,000

  5. Yellow Fever, 1878, Mississippi Valley -- 13,000+

  6. Galveston Hurricane, 1900 -- 6K - 12,000

  7. Yellow Fever, New Orleans, 1853 -- 7,790

  8. Cholera Epidemic, 1832 -- 7,000+

  9. Polio, 1916 -- 7,000+

  10. Polio, 1949-1952 -- 6,000+

  11. Yellow Fever, Philadelphia, 1793 -- 5,000+

  12. Cholera Epidemic, 1849, Mississippi Valley -- 5,000+

  13. Yellow Fever, New Orleans, 1867 -- 3,093

  14. San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906 -- 664-3,000

  15. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 -- ~3,000

  16. Johnstown Flood, 1889 -- 2,000-3,000

  17. Illinois Heat Wave, July 1-31, 1936 (access deaths) -- 2,696

  18. Pestigo Firestorm, Wisconsin, 8 October 1871 -- 2,200+

  19. Great Okeechobee Hurricane and Flood, 1928 -- 1,836-2,500

  20. Louisiana Hurricane of 1893 -- 2,000+

  21. Riverboat Sultana Explosion and Sinking, 1865 -- 1,547-~2000

  22. South Carolina-Georgia Hurricane of 1893 -- 1,000- 2,000

  23. Sinking of Titanic, April 15, 1912 -- 1,503

  24. General Slocum Excursion Steamer Fire, June 15, 1904 -- 1,000- 1,350

  25. Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, MS, AL, FL, 2005 -- ~1,300

  26. Illinois Heat Wave July 1-31, 1966 (“excess deaths”) -- 1,148

  27. New York City Heat Wave Aug 9-15, 1986 -- 1,001

  28. MN & WI Forest Fire, 1918 -- 1,000

  29. Florida Keys, LA, AL, TX Hurricane, Sep. 2-15, 1919 -- 600-900

  30. Wildfire, MN (Hinckley) & WI, September 1 -- 894

  31. Eastland Excursion Steamer sinking, Chicago, 1871 -- 844

  32. Tornadoes, February 19, 1884, MI, NC, TN, IN -- ~800

  33. Chicago Fire, 1871 -- 766

  34. Heat Wave (Particularly Chicago) 1995 -- ~739

  35. New England Hurricane, 1938 -- 600-720

  36. Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane of 1881 -- ~700

  37. Tri-State Tornado, 1925 -- 689-695

  38. Iroquois Theater Fire, Chicago, December 30, 1903 -- 602

  39. Texas City Grandcamp Freighter Explosion, 1947 -- 516

  40. St. Francis Dam Failure, Ventura County CA, 1928 -- 500

  41. Florida Keys Hurricane, September 1935 -- 405-423

  42. Northeastern United States “Great Atlantic Hurricane,” Sep. 1944 -- 394

  43. Hurricane Audrey, June 1957 -- 390

WORST DISASTERS (LIVES LOST) – NATURAL (non-bio) & ACCIDENTAL


  1. Galveston Hurricane, 1900 -- 6K - 12,000

  2. Great Okeechobee Hurricane and Flood, 1928 -- 1,836-2,500

  3. Johnstown Flood, 1889 -- 2,000-3,000

  4. San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906 -- 664-3,000

  5. Illinois Heat Wave, July 1-31, 1936 (access deaths) -- 2,696

  6. Louisiana Hurricane of 1893 -- 2,000+

  7. Pestigo Firestorm, Wisconsin, 8 October 1871 -- 2,200+

  8. South Carolina-Georgia Hurricane of 1893 -- 1,000-2,000

  9. Sinking of Titanic, April 15, 1912 -- 1,503

  10. Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, Miss. AL, FL, 2005 -- ~1,300

  11. Illinois Heat Wave July 1-31, 1966 (“excess deaths”) -- 1,148

  12. New York City Heat Wave Aug 9-15, 1986 -- 1,001

  13. MN & WI Forest Fire, 1918 -- 1,000

  14. Ship Fire, NYC Harbor, 1904 -- 1,000

  15. Florida Keys, LA, AL, TX Hurricane, Sep. 2-15, 1919 -- 600-900

  16. Wildfire, MN (Hinckley) & WI, September 1 -- 894

  17. Tornadoes, February 19, 1884, MI, NC, TN, IN -- ~800

  18. Chicago Fire, 1871 -- 766

  19. Heat Wave (Particularly Chicago) 1995 -- ~739

  20. New England Hurricane, 1938 (Long Island Express) -- 700-720

  21. Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane of 1881 -- ~700

  22. Tri-State Tornado, 1925 -- 695

WORST DISASTERS (LIVES LOST) – CHRONOLOGICAL




  1. 1775-1782 -- Smallpox -- 130,000

  2. 1793 -- Yellow Fever, Philadelphia -- 5,000+

  3. 1832 -- Cholera Epidemic -- 7,000+

  4. 1849 -- Cholera Epidemic, Mississippi Valley -- 5,000+

  5. 1853 -- Yellow Fever, New Orleans -- 7,790

  6. 1865 -- Riverboat Sultana Explosion/Sinking, MS River -- 1,547-~

  7. 1867 -- Yellow Fever, New Orleans -- 3,093

  8. 1871 -- Pestigo Firestorm, Wisconsin -- 2,200+

  9. 1871 -- Eastland Excursion Steamer sinking, Chicago -- 844

  10. 1871 -- Chicago Fire -- 766

  11. 1878 -- Yellow Fever, Mississippi Valley -- 13,000+

  12. 1881 -- Georgia-South Carolina Hurricane -- ~700

  13. 1884 -- Tornadoes, MI, NC, TN, IN -- ~800

  14. 1889 -- Johnstown Flood -- 2,000-3,000

  15. 1893 -- Louisiana Hurricane -- 2,000+

  16. 1893 -- South Carolina-Georgia Hurricane -- 1,000-2,000

  17. 1894 -- Wildfire, MN (Hinckley) & WI, September 1 -- 894

  18. 1900 -- Galveston Hurricane -- 6K - 12,000

  19. 1903 -- Iroquois Theater Fire, Chicago, December 30 -- 602

  20. 1904 -- General Slocum Excursion Steamer Fire, June 15 -- 1,000- 1,350

  21. 1906 -- San Francisco Earthquake and Fire -- 664-3,000

  22. 1912 -- Sinking of Titanic, April 15, 1912 -- 1,503

  23. 1916 -- Polio -- 7,000+

  24. 1918 – MN & WI Forest Fire -- 1,000

  25. 1918-19 -- Influenza Pandemic, September -- April -- 675,000

  26. 1919 -- Florida Keys, LA, AL, TX Hurricane, Sep. 2-15 -- 600-900

  27. 1925 -- Tri-State Tornado -- 689-695

  28. 1928 -- Great Okeechobee Hurricane and Flood -- 1,836-2,500

  29. 1928 -- St. Francis Dam Failure, Ventura County CA -- 500

  30. 1935 -- Florida Keys Hurricane, September -- 405-423

  31. 1936 -- Illinois Heat Wave, July 1-31 (access deaths) -- 2,696

  32. 1938 -- New England Hurricane (Long Island Express) -- 600-720

  33. 1944 -- Northeastern United States “Great Atlantic Hurricane,” Sep. -- 394

  34. 1947 -- Texas City Grandcamp Freighter Explosion -- 516

  35. 1949-1952 -- Polio -- 6,000+

  36. 1957 -- Influenza Epidemic -- 70,000

  37. 1957 -- Hurricane Audrey, June -- 390

  38. 1966 -- Illinois Heat Wave July 1-31 (“excess deaths”) -- 1,148

  39. 1968 -- Influenza Epidemic -- 28,000

  40. 1986 -- New York City Heat Wave Aug 9-15 -- 1,001

  41. 1995 – Heat Wave (Particularly Chicago) -- ~739

  42. 2001 -- 9/11 Terrorist Attacks -- ~3,000

  43. 2005 -- Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana, Miss. AL, FL -- ~1,300

SOURCES (Partial List)


Associated Press. “Katrina Death Toll Now at 1,281.” October 20, 2005.
Chase, Marilyn. The Barbary Plague – The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003.
CNN.com/SPECIALS/2004/hurricanes/interactive/hurricanes.topten/content
Collins, Ace. Tragedies of American History – Thirteen Stories of Human Error and Natural Disaster. New York: Plume Books, 2003.
Kapucu, Naim, and Montgomery Van Wart. “The Evolving Role of the Public Sector in Managing Catastrophic Disasters.” Administration & Society, Vol. 38, No. 3, July 2006, pp. 1-30.
Kleinberg, Eliot. Black Cloud: The Great Florida Hurricane of 1928. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003.
McShane, Larry. “NYC Unveils Hurricane Evacuation Plan.” New York Times, October 5, 2005.
Noji, Eric K. (Ed.). The Public Health Consequences of Disasters. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
O’Donnell, Edward T. “A Brief Account of the General Slocum Disaster.” Accessed at: http://www.general-slocum.com/0acc.htm
Perkins, Jeanne B., Arietta Chakos, Robert A. Olson, L. Thomas Tobin, Fred Turner. “The 1906 Earthquake and Public Policy.” Natural Hazards Observer, Vol. XXX, No. 5, May 2006, pp. 1-3.
Pocock, Emil, and Jamal Lee. “Disasters in the United States, 1650-2001.” American Studies, Eastern Connecticut State University, August 12, 2005 modification. Accessed at: http://www.easternct.edu/depts/amerst/disasters.htm
Rosenberg, Charles E. The Cholera Years – The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1962.
Scotti, R.A. Sudden Sea – The Great Hurricane of 1938. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 2003.
Seper, Jerry. “Katrina Latest in a Long History.” Washington Times, September 4, 2005. Accessed at: http://www.washtimes.com/specialreport/20050904-121656-1452r.htm
Tanner, Robert. “Katrina Makes Top 10 Deadliest Disasters.” Associated Press, Sep. 15, 2005.
Winchester, Simon. A Crack in The Edge Of The World – America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. Harper Collins Publishers, 2005.


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