Inevitable, devastating, and terrifying, natural disasters are capable of striking awe and fear into our very cores just at the thought of them. What makes these so dangerous is not just the fact that they cause millions in damages and thousands of fatalities a year, but the fact that they can happen at anytime, nearly anywhere in the world, and there’s not much we can do to stop them. Sure we can evacuate, and prepare, but ultimately there is no way to stop an earthquake or dissipate a tornado. Not yet at least.
Despite the fact that these events cause widespread fear and panic, they also easily give us some of the most surreal and mind-boggling pictures. Just seeing a picture of the sheer size of tsunami waves, like those claimed thousands of lives in Tohoku, Japan, or the plume of smoke and ash erupting from a volcano, like the infamous Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, is enough to rattle the minds of even the strongest of humans. And yet, there are those who laugh in the face of danger either for science or just for kicks.
Here is a list of some of the most mind blowing pictures of natural disasters from around the world.
15. Nepal Earthquake In 2015
A tower that had stood for over 180 years was reduced to rubble after the earthquakes that shocked the world occurred – as well as about 95 per cent of all homes and businesses of Nepal. The first measured in at a 7.3 on the Richter Scale and was quickly followed by another measuring 6.3. It was large enough that the effects were felt in China, Bangladesh and several other Indian countries.
There were a total of 218 casualties, more than 3,500 injuries across all areas that felt the quake. This was just a month after an even more devastating quake that took the lives of over 9,000 people.
14. Indian Ocean Quake In 2004
On Boxing Day in 2004, an earthquake hit just off the coast of Indonesia. Measuring in at 9.1-9.3 on the Richter scale and was the third largest measured earthquake ever recorded. It was so freaking huge, that the entire Earth practically shook and earthquakes were triggered as far as Alaska. The quake and resulting tsunami took the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 different countries.
Thankfully, the world isn’t full of terrible people, because other countries from around the globe donated up to $14 billion in humanitarian aid. The damage was recorded to have been more powerful than that of an atomic bomb, and you can see by the destruction it caused that this Earth is capable of immense power.
13. Mount St. Helen’s Eruption In 1980
At about 8:30 a.m. on May 18th, a relatively small – in comparison – earthquake hit Washington which weakened the north face of the mountain, causing it to become one of the largest recorded landslides of our time. Because of this, it exposed the underlaying molten and gas-filled rock to lower pressure, leading to an 80,000 foot eruption column that covered 11 states in its ash.
It didn’t stop there either. Over the next few months, it continued to emit steam, and occasionally even went off, although not nearly as intense as the first eruption. The eruption took the lives of 57 people, and caused billions in damages to the surrounding area.
12. Tōhoku Earthquake And Tsunami In 2011
In March of 2011, Japan was again hit by another huge quake. It measured 9.0, and is the most powerful recorded earthquake to have hit Japan, and fourth most powerful since we started recording these things. It was reported that there were more than 15,000 deaths caused by the resulting tsunami and left over 200,000 people having to be put in temporary homes or new permanent residences after being displaced by tsunami waves reaching as high as 133 feet tall and went as far as 10 km inland.
This disaster is also what led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors within the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
11. Great Hanshin Quake In 1995
Japan is no stranger to natural disasters. Earthquakes and tsunamis are a constant threat to the island country, and in 1995 they were met with one of the most devastating earthquakes of their history. The Great Hanshin earthquake took its toll mainly on the city of Kobe and decimated 150,000 buildings and 120 docks dotting the coastline.
Over 6,000 people lost their lives in this disaster which led to a complete revamp of Japan’s disaster prevention authorities. Buildings were re-structured to take on bigger quakes, and were more prepared should another one hit this hard.
10. Chile Earthquake In 2010
In 2010, Chile was rocked by an 8.8 earthquake just of the coast that lasted roughly three minutes, killing 525 people. It was felt by most of the population of Chile, but was powerful enough to be felt in certain areas of Argentina. It was later hit by multiple aftershocks measuring between 5.4 and 6.2, all within the first hour after the initial quake, and a multitude or minor quakes throughout the southwest hemisphere.
The quake also triggered multiple tsunamis, and warnings were issued to 53 countries. It was powerful enough that it caused minor damage in San Diego, and disrupted fisheries based in the Tōhoku region of Japan.
9. Hurricane Katrina In 2005
It’s hard to forget about Katrina. It was the costliest and one of the deadliest storms in US history. In total, at least 1,245 people lost their lives and left over 1 million without homes all throughout the south eastern United States. The effects were felt mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi, but even caused minor floods as far north as Quebec. It even caused tornados in Pennsylvania, although none of them caused any significant damage. Thankfully, the US received donations from multiple countries to aid in the recovery of the devastation caused by the storm.
One major cause to the destruction was the levees breaking. Originally thought to have broken from the force of the storm, it was later discovered that there were possible flaws with their construction – something that was pointed out in 1986. They have since been rebuilt, and brought up to modern building codes to prevent any future disasters.
8. Tornado Outbreak In 2006
Over the course of 2006, there was an astounding 1,333 reported tornadoes in the US which caused the deaths of 67 people. The picture above is one of 14 tornadoes recorded on August 24th, and one of three just in Minnesota. It traveled over 50 km, caused one fatality and over $30 million in damages.
The sheer size of this torrent of wind and debris is enough to shake the boots of the bravest of humans. Over the course of 7 hours, the tornadoes caused $130 million in damages across multiple states.
7. Tōhoku Tsunami In 2011
I’m sure this isn’t what the homeowner had in mind for a houseboat. This is more damage that was caused by the quake and tsunami in the Tōhoku region of Japan in early 2011.
This house was discovered 112 km off the coast of Japan after the tsunami hit and uprooted the lives of over 200,000 people. The damages caused cost the World Bank an estimated $235 billion, making it the costliest disaster in not only Japan’s history, but the world.
6. Joplin Tornado In 2011
The deadliest tornado to strike the US in 40 years, Joplin was hit hard by an EF5 tornado – about as powerful as they can get. It reached a size of 1 mile wide and traveled 35 km, only intensifying the further it got. It destroyed almost 7,000 homes with another 500 left with minor damage.
There were 158 deaths and another 1,150 injuries, a number that could have been lower had many of the residents heeded the tornado warnings issued just 20 minutes before the tornado landed. It cost close to $3 billion in damages, making it the most expensive disaster in Missouri’s history.
5. Guatamala City Sinkhole In 2010
I’ll be the first to admit that any natural disaster gives me the sweats when I think about them, but none actually terrify me as much as sinkholes. They occur randomly, and have numerous reasons to happen. In 2010, Guatamala City was hit with one after a series of other natural events. First was a tropical storm that started on May 24th and lasted until the 30th, followed by the eruption of the Pacaya volcano on the 27th.
The constant rain, troubled ground and leaking sewer pipes led to a sinkhole roughly 65 feet wide and 100 feet deep. It took with it a three story factory, killed 15 people and put another 300 at risk should the sinkhole grow any larger. It has since been filled in, but the area is still at high risk for unpredictable sinkholes.
4. Mount Pinatubo Eruption In 1991
Before 1991, not much was known about Mount Pinatubo. Located in the Philippines, it was covered in dense forest, and was heavily eroded from years of rainfall. Overall, it wasn’t too intimidating and never gave the local population any trouble. Then, in June of 1991, it caused the second largest eruption of the 20th century. It was so powerful, effects of it were felt around the globe.
There was a sulfuric acid haze that coated the entire world, and it even dropped the global temperature by 0.5 Celsius. Thankfully, predictions of the event allowed thousands of people to be evacuated, however, 847 people still lost their lives amidst the chaos.
3. Undersea Volcano Of Tonga In 2009
On top of all the volcanoes we know about above sea level all over the world, there are still hundreds located under the sea, one of which is located just off the coast of Hunga Tonga, an uninhabited island amidst the Tonga archipelago.
Thankfully there were no deaths – apart from some wildlife and plants on the island that were covered in ash – yet this is still a sight to behold. Between March 16-21st, the volcano spewed ash and magma, dousing the nearest island in smoke and ash.
2. The 2015 Mt. Everest Avalanche
After the earthquake that rocked Nepal earlier this year, it was followed by the most devastating avalanche Mount Everest has seen to date. This picture is a screen cap from a video taken by one of the climbers camped on the mountain at the time of the avalanche – and just so you know, those aren’t clouds. There were roughly 24 reported deaths, and another 61 injuries and many stranded at higher elevations with no way to get down.
The mountain was closed to climbers for the spring season, and it was the first time that no one climbed the mountain during its spring season in 41 years. The mountain has since re-opened, as the chief of the Nepal Department of Tourism has stated they have “no scientific reason to expect another quake… and we feel the ground is stable enough for climbing despite aftershocks”
1. Volcanic Storms In Chile In 2008
Another trip to Chile, however this one is more fascinating than it is devastating. Volcanic storms, also known as Dirty Thunderstorms, are caused when electrical charges in the rock, ash and ice particles spewed by the eruption collide producing static charges.
While this eruption didn’t result in any deaths, it coated areas of Chile and Argentina in so much ash that it could have long lasting negative effects on their agriculture, and left certain areas open to lahars – essentially a landslide caused by pyroclastic material, rocks and water.