Yangtze River Flood (1931)

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These six natural disasters destroyed cities and wiped out communities around the world

These six natural disasters destroyed cities and wiped out communities around the world. By hurricane, typhoon, flood, or earthquake, these events have collectively taken millions of human lives.

  • Yangtze River Flood (1931)

Major flood events along the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) in central and eastern China have occurred from ancient times to the present, causing considerable destruction of property and many casualties, but the major flood of 1931 stands out. It covered tens of thousands of square miles, flooding rice fields and various cities, including Nanjing and Wuhan. The flood affected more than 50 million people. Government organizations, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimated the death toll to have been about 3.7 million people.

  • Haitian Earthquake (2010)

Haiti earthquake of 2010Joe Raedle/Getty Images
On January 12, 2010, an earthquake hit Haiti about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The earthquake registered a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale and was followed by aftershocks that registered magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.5. Another aftershock of magnitude 5.9 struck on January 20. The earthquake was generated by contractional deformation along the Léogâne fault, a small hidden thrust fault discovered underneath the city of Léogâne. There has been debate about the total number of deaths caused by this earthquake, but estimates suggest that about 200,000–300,000 people died. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced.

  • Typhoon Nina–Banqiao Dam Failure (1975)

Typhoon Nina struck western Henan province of China in August 1975. The typhoon caused a catastrophic dam failure, and the ensuing floods caused more than 150,000 casualties. The Banqiao Dam had been built in the early 1950s in an effort to control the Huang He (Yellow River), but Typhoon Nina produced floods twice as intense as the flood levels the dam was able to withstand. According to death toll reports, at least 26,000 people died in the floods. An estimated 145,000 people died from epidemics caused by water contamination and famine. The number of people affected by the disaster exceeded 10,000,000.
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