When mother nature is ready to unleash herself, duck, run or hide. It amazes me how many natural disasters we’ve seen on the news over the past ten years. I remember living in Florida when Hurricane Katrina happened. I was naïve to believe that Floridians would experience a typical tropical storm and Miss Katrina would be a distant memory. Little did I know what was ahead. It was clear when she decided to come through my neighborhood that the news stories about hurricanes were right. It sounded like a train ringing in my ears, and all I could do was pray and wait. Generators at the Home Depot were sold out in a short period the day before, the line up for gasoline was one hour long and after she passed through, restaurants increased their menu prices knowing that most grocery stores were closed.
I remember seeing houses in poor neighborhoods in shreds and colleagues telling me their roof was ripped off and their parents had no home insurance. Were you ever caught in a deadly natural disaster? I am blessed because I am alive to tell my story, but not many see the light of day when trapped in a tsunami, earthquake, flood or any real-life disaster.
My job today ladies and gentlemen is to bring the National Geographic to your computer screen as we cover 20 of the worst natural disasters that happened around the world.
20. Disastrous Mudslides and Floods in Rio de Janeiro
Brazil had a significant achievement and tragedy this year; the 2016 Olympics and the Zika virus. It seemed that these events were the first in the country of its kind, but it wasn’t. In the New Year (January) of 2011, a few cities in the mountain region including Rio de Janeiro could not hide from a disaster. After heavy rainfall followed by flooding, electricity, running water and phone lines could not stand the test of what nature had in store. The low-income people of the favelas had no resources to get themselves back on their feet after it ended.
People living in mountains that were sleeping were buried alive by torrential mudslides. In the city of Teresopolis the Brazilian mayor at the time named Jorge Mario Sedlacek publicized a state of emergency and about 800 rescue workers from the civil defense department including firefighters were digging deep into the mud to find survivors. The unfortunate part of this story is Brazil is a common place in January to receive torrential rains, but a situation like this can happen in a matter of seconds. Once you are on a mountain and a gush of liquid mud heads in your direction, not even a snowboarder can ride the wave.
19. Hundreds of Forest Fires that Spread Across Western Canada
Canada is one of the countries that rarely feel the wrath of nature’s anger. In May of 2016, this known fact smashed into little pieces. On May 1st, a wildfire spread from the south of FortMcMurray in the province of Alberta destroying neighborhoods and acres of forest with the animal kingdom in it. 1,500,000 acres of forest! Families were out of homes, trade workers on the oil rigs filled up airports, and the entire community was asked to flee the scene to avoid being wrapped up in the fire monster.
There are a limited number of firefighters in the area to tame the fire beast, but an unsuspecting group of visitors arrived. South African firefighters came all the way from the motherland to help beat the heat. Also, the forest fires made its way to the province of British Columbia which is next to Alberta. A total of 85 forest fires took over North locations, more specifically the city of Prince George with 57 of these reports.
18. Massive Heat Wave that Killed 70,000 Europeans
Now that we are on the topic of heat, a fire may be deadly, but the hectic weather is a force that one can’t beat. One of the most dangerous waves of heat to hit Europe was in August 2003. In a few locations in France, the temperatures were so high that a drought and a decrease of crops lead to a total of 70,000 deaths. How did this happen? A rush of hot air from the continent of Europe mixed with the wind from the south and a seasonal lag from the Atlantic Ocean caused the temperature to rise. Some bodies were not recognized by families because August is an ordinary time of the year for locals to go on vacation. Elderly residents living alone had no idea what to do to beat the heat and were also victims. Another disturbing fact is President Jacques Chirac put the blame for this on the families of Elderly victims that forgot about them. The other European countries that felt a brunt of the heat were Italy, Germany, the UK, Ireland and Sweden to name a few.
17. The 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake that Devastated Haiti
There are an unusual number of Caribbean islands such as Curacao that hurricanes traveling from the Atlantic Ocean tend to miss. The day that shocked the world was on January 12, 2010. Most of us were getting our New Years Resolution list ready, but a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Port-au-Prince and negatively impacted 3 million people. Two hours after the earthquake eight aftershocks of up to 5.9 magnitudes were felt. Thanks to Haiti’s neighbor the Dominican Republic, many people fled there to start a new life. Little did we know that islands in the area such as Cuba, Jamaica, and a city named Caracas in Venezuela felt the ground shaking on this day. Over the centuries, plate boundary systems slipped beneath each other that caused the incident. About two weeks after, a town named Petit Paradis (Small Paradise) had a tsunami that carried boats and debris from the earthquake back into the ocean. There are many Haitians that live worldwide that could not get through to their families at this time. As people in natural parts of the world sent donations to help the people, the Red Cross was under investigation for using 25 percent of $125 million the organization raised to help Haiti.
16. The Vicious -32 Degrees Celsius Winter Storm in China
After doing research, China is a typical country on the list that mother nature disturbs. In 2008 winter storms hit the south and inner side of the country where people felt the wrath of ice and treacherous cold temperatures. The cold was so unbearable that it found its way in the Taklamakan, which is a desert that was completely covered by snow for the first time in history. Most of the people in China were not accustomed to negative 32 degrees’ Celsius weather at this period of the year, and the infrastructure was not designed to survive this storm. La Nina and circulation in the atmosphere are considered major factors that changed the standard pattern of climate. Roofs on low-rise buildings collapsed, and about 862,000 homes were damaged. That means no heat in minus 30-degree Celsius weather. If that doesn’t blow your mind, 6 million passengers on the railway tried to escape the cold and were stranded. Just when you thought the people could get a break Mr. La Nina had to stir the pot. This time the Red Cross didn’t disappoint. The organization received 60 million yuan with essentials such as coats, medicine, and food to help the frozen nation of China.
15. Australia’s Black Saturday Bushfires
Across Australia, there were 400 bushfires from February to March 2009 that injured 414 people and killed 173 residents. A week before it happened a heatwave in southeastern Australia had temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit caused by a high-pressure system above the Tasman Sea. A gush of winds carried the bushfire making it the most extreme fire to hit the island. The media reported that the smoke in the area of Kilmore East was so thick that planes were unable to map the bushfire for news outlets to keep residents updated. In this city, there were old power lines (owned by SP AusNet utility) that were the blame for the super inferno. In December 2014, SP AusNet had to settle with the Supreme Court of Victoria for a payout of A$494 million to Centro Properties Limited, an Australian Real Estate Firm that built Kilmore East. It is the highest paid lawsuit in Australia.
14. Hundreds of Pakistani Military Soldiers Trapped in an Avalanche
Can you imagine being crushed by snow traveling 13,000 feet from a mountain? The soldiers and locals in Pakistan in April of 2012 had no choice, and at the time of the natural disaster, they did not have a chance to escape it. The area of the avalanche is the Siachen Glacier located in the Himalaya Mountains. This area is a place that India and Pakistan have fought over from 1949 to 2003 to claim the territory. It was such a sought-after location that both countries dished out millions of dollars for 64 years.
A combination of heavy snowfalls and colder than usual temperatures during winter was a factor. To give you a brief visual, at 2 am on April 7th, an avalanche of ice hit a Pakistani military base close to the Siachen Glacier. There were 100 soldiers barricaded under 21 meters of snow. About 150 soldiers participating in a rescue operation came in helicopters, with rescue dogs and machinery to lift up ice sheets. Only 12 dead bodies showed up with the remaining 130 people unaccounted. Let’s hope that this avalanche doesn’t evolve into a bigger problem in this area in the future.
13. A Category 4 Cyclone in Myanmar that Caused $10 Billion in Damage
I introduce you to Cyclone Nargis, a wave of water and high winds from the Indian Ocean that were the reason for 55,000 people gone missing. A reported $10 billion USD in damages which was the most expensive cyclone to exist in Myanmar. It was a domino effect of torrential rains, floods with landslides in the south. The circle of the storm reached 19 km in diameter, and it became stronger with 80 miles per hour winds. In this natural situation, officials were given the heads up that something big was coming. Farmers in Bangladesh were asked to quickly harvest their rice and fishermen were told not to sail on the coastline of India. The last time the world has seen a cyclone this powerful was in 1970.
In Myanmar, close to 75 percent of the buildings in a town called Labutta remained crushed and up to 1,100 temples for the people to go and pray after the cyclone were non-existent. The Junta (a political group) denied foreign relief workers and the military to come into the country and help. A CNN reporter that covered the news story was even asked to leave or face imprisonment.
12. Tsunami in India that Shocked the World
Can you imagine a train of water 30 meters high moving toward your city? At midnight on December 25, 2004, the Indian and Burma Plates slipped underneath each other causing a ripple effect of several tsunamis that thrust towards Sumatra, Indonesia. North Sentinel Island was also in the tsunami’s direction, however, a tribe of African people that live on this island survived. India calls them the Sentinelese; a group of Africans that call the island their home that forecasted the tsunami was coming (using unknown practices) and found a way to dodge it.
The tsunami was so intense that it caused the entire planet to vibrate and other earthquakes including one in Alaska to shake the earth. Imagine this; Nazaruddin Musa was one victim that is alive that told The Guardian his story. He said that he felt an earthquake as he was fishing and ran home to his family. Right before the 30-foot wave of water traveled to his neighborhood, he managed to move his son and wife behind a wall near his house. The water swallowed up two-story building and houses.
11. The Amero Tragedy the Colombian Government Was Blamed For
In the city of Tolima, the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano sat dormant for 69 years. In September 1985, the government was warned a few times by volcano organizations to tell the town of 1.4 million people to evacuate, but the government failed to make an escape plan a viable opportunity. When the volcano erupted it melted mountain glaciers instigating landslides and debris moving 50 km per hour even reaching into the cities six major rivers. As the world learned more about this incident fingers were pointed at the Colombian government for being responsible for not saving his people. According to Wikipedia, at a volcano victim’s funeral, there was a sign outside that read “The volcano didn’t kill 22,000 people. The government killed them.” If the government wasn’t feeling the brunt of the hot seat, the backlash must have burned.
Hold your stomach for this one, relief workers on the scene twelve hours after the volcano said they saw disfigured bodies. Another crazy reason the government was distracted was the guerilla warfare that was taking place in Bogota when the M-19 guerilla group invaded the Palace of Justice holding the Supreme Court for hostage. On the bright side, since the 1985 volcano eruption the Directorate for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness was set up, as this area remains a hot spot for future outbreaks.
10. The Great Famine of China Left 15 Million Dead
After you read this article, you will have more of appreciation for the food that you eat every day. The Great Chinese Famine was the aftermath of bad weather, drought and strict rules established by the Communist Party of China. It started in 1959 and sadly ended in 1961. Before the famine, the economy in China was poorly managed, and government regulations were putting a strong arm on agriculture. There was a law that was passed by Mao Zedong (the late Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party) allowing the government to own the farming sector and if farmers resisted the law, the final solution was persecution. This law was called the Great Leap Forward, a political campaign where steel and iron produce became more important than farming. Add a technique called close planting to the mix that caused a decrease of crop growth when plants of the same species planted close to each other and you get a lack of vegetables.
15 million Chinese residents died due to a lack of food as the weather was too hot to bare. An author by the name of Yang Jisheng wrote a journal called Annals of the Yellow Emperor telling his truth about what happened with pictures that will turn your stomach 360 degrees. We all know China as being a media controlled country, and as a result, Yang’s Journal was unable to be published for his people to read.
9. The Russian Governments Secret: 1984 Soviet Union Tornado Outbreak
Do you know the name of the 3rd deadliest tornado in Europe? They call it the “1984 Soviet Union tornado outbreak.” A circular wind force covered lands of 400,000 km in Moscow, Ivanovo and Yaroslavl. The intensity was considered an F5 (Category 5), 800-meter-wide tornado that ate steel concrete for breakfast. This storm threw the heaviest objects 200 meters far, creating thunderstorms and hail that was 2.2 pounds wet.
Over the Black Sea moisture and heat (68 degrees Fahrenheit) mixed creating thunderstorms over the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) at night. Luckily enough, the moisture spread along the coastline of Turkey and the Black Sea, but Turkey was safe from the deadly tornado.
There is not much information that the Soviet Union gave the international media because it took place in the USSR; a country that is known for its secure political system. It is evident that the Russian Government hid the negative news about it which is devastating for Russians worldwide that had family in these towns at this time. If Russia decides to expose more details, other countries can study the cause and potentially save people’s lives if a similar tornado hits in the future. The fact of the matter is in this area F1, and F2 tornadoes are common, but an F5 force was an event that the people of Russia could not be prepared to fight.
8. Limnic Eruptions in Cameroon Kills Thousands of Animals and People
Cameroon is one of the few politically neutral countries in Africa that tend not to receive bad press in the news compared to other nations. It doesn’t mean that it can’t feel the fury of mother nature. In northern Cameroon (Yaounde) there is a lake named Nyos that is on top of the inactive Oku volcano. Underneath the lake is hot magma that released carbon dioxide into the river that traveled upward from the earth.
In 1986 after a landslide, a significant carbon dioxide cloud at Lake Nyos suffocated close to 2,000 people and 3,500 animals in nearby villages. If you watched the horror movie The Happening, you could get an idea of how frightening this sounds. Two years before the limnic eruption the same thing happened, but the carbon dioxide was not high enough to kill humans and animals. Reports state that up to 300,000 tons of Co2 released into the air rose to the sky, 100 kilometers per hour. There are two theories to the incident; one states a landslide offset the hot magma. The second is a small volcanic eruption in the lake occurred, but before it happened, the people that are still alive did not feel an explosion, leaving some to believe the second theory is false. In the aftermath, the blue waters of the lake are now a dark red color. If nature didn’t change the color of the lake to the color red as a metaphor for the lives taken, only God knows what this symbolizes.
7. Matthew’s Furious Category 5 Hurricane
Hurricane Matthew forced itself onto Cuba, the Canadian Maritimes, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the southern United States and Lucayan Archipelago. It formed on September 28th and decided to die down on October 10, 2016. That is almost one month of real terror! Sources say that it started in Africa as a tropical wave moving towards the tiny island of St. Lucia that intensified across the Caribbean Sea.
This hurricane was a trickster because it went from a Category 4, Category 3, a Category 1 once it got to South Carolina and grew into a Category 5 beast. Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, power outages, landslides, floods, and damaged homes with a fatality of a total of over 1,659 people. The places in the U.S. affected were Fayetteville in North Carolina, Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine in Florida.
A media scandal with the Miami Herald started when a headline “Storm Fizzle? Matthew Looks Ragged!” appeared in an article. There were social media posts on Twitter that downplayed the 165 miles per hour winds in the Bahamas leaving people to believe it was harmless. The Canadian city of Nova Scotia received 8.85 mm of rain and high winds developed into floods with roads closed and 144,000 people without power.
6. The Worldwide H1N1 Flu Pandemic
In 2009, the H1n1 (better known as Swine Flu) took the lives of 17,000 people. Individuals would develop signs of pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome that caused their lungs to turn red and enlarge. The virus spread across Mexico City to nearby areas such as San Diego, Houston, and Brownsville in Texas. The health industry believes that people caught the H1N1 virus by touching infected objects before touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. Even innocent animals such as turkeys, ferrets, swine, and house cats were affected. Other countries tried their best to prevent fatalities. The UK Government urged it’s citizens with children older than six months years of age to get a vaccine. Additionally, multiple European nations prohibited travel to the United States and Mexico with the goal of keeping their people safe from harm. Even President Barack Obama publicly took a vaccine shot to show the world how dangerous the virus is.
5. Japan’s 97 Degrees Fahrenheit Summer Heat Wave
In 2010 planet Earth was a supernova of heat due to a long list of naturally caused reasons. El Nino was the first phase of the heat coupled with anticyclones that went down in history as Japans highest recorded temperatures. The Japan Meteorological Agency measured 97 degrees Fahrenheit in the cities of Hiroshima, Osaka, and Shikoku to name a few. The heat lasted in Kanazawa for 43 days, in Yonago for 40 days and Niigata for 38 days. 1,718 people died of heat stroke which makes sense in a place where consistent high temperatures of this nature are rare. That doesn’t include the 52,000 people that had strokes but were able to survive. People visiting the country were warned to go back home that led to traffic jams on many expressways (highways) which included a 40-km long build up at the Tomei Expressway Yamato Tunnel. Can you imagine being told to go home while on vacation?
4. Venezuelan Storm that Destroyed Vargas
One week before Christmas in 1999 a series of rain and flash floods ruined the state of Vargas’ infrastructure, taking the lives of tens of thousands of residents. A neighborhood called Los Corales ended up beneath 3 meters of mud that slid from high mountains with people’s homes thrust into the ocean. It is sad to say that 10 percent of Vargas’ population did not survive. The most interesting part of this story is floods and mudslides in Vargas are a way of life. Close to thirty-five inches of rain fell that washed soil and debris located where families that lived on top of an Alluvial fan. An Alluvial fan is a formation of land formed with the help of streams and is typically near a canyon or mountains. Natural disaster experts believed that high-rise buildings and multi-story houses at the Caraballeda fan were a part of the reason for the landslides. Months after the storm, food and water were unavailable, and most of the Vargas residents evacuated. On a positive note, President Hugo Chavez implemented a plan called “adopt a family” where people welcomed victims in their home until they got back on their feet. The MLB baseball player Omar Vizquel used his celebrity influence to raise over $500,000 to assist those in need. Emergency funds from organizations around the world and plans for construction were also implemented to help bring the city back.
3. Toronto Freezes Over in 72 Hours
As you begin reading this story, you might skip over this point to read the next situation. Spare a few minutes of your time because the winter of 2013 in Southern Ontario was massive. And, not to worry, the late Mayor Rob Ford might be considered a disaster to some Canadians, but we are not covering politics today.
If you have ever been to Toronto in the winter, you will notice it can get cold as the Windy City of Chicago because it is right next to Lake Ontario. In December 2013, 72 hours of snow was to start on a Friday and end on a Sunday which is a regular weather pattern. The unexpecting part was that on that Sunday, all Southern Ontario froze over after rain and a thick dip in the temperature turned everything into ice. The highways, roads, cars, front doors of houses and even railway tracks. About 500,000 people were out of power and thick branches on trees laced with ice fell in the middle of streets as people waited for their municipality to move debris. It was a state of emergency and the media quickly urged everyone not to leave their house.
2. A Snow Storm Afghanistan Didn’t See Coming
On February 24, 2015, an avalanche as high as 30 feet high, followed storms and snowfall with a mix of increased temperatures. We also have to keep in mind that not one, but forty avalanches happened on the mountain filled province of Panjshir. Surrounding communities joined forces to save people by using shovels and even their bare hands. Much similar to the 2013 Southern Ontario ice storm, trees fell on the main roads in the Valley of Panjshir. People desperately waited for heavy machinery and medicines to stay afloat although President Ashraf Ghani gave a public statement that he was upset about what happened with the flooding and avalanches in his country. What would you do if your family became trapped under snow? With the help of the air force, the food was dropped from the sky in parcels to seven villages and the country were granted three days to mourn victims. Afghani people say that it has been three decades since an avalanche of this magnitude ravished their country.
1. 1881 Typhoon Destroys Haiphong and the Economy
I filled you in with most recent occurrences, but now it’s time to take a step back into time. In 1881 a cyclone tore apart the Philippines and Haiphong in Vietnam located near the Red River. The city sits at a very low level and adds the fact that sea water rose in height to 1.8 meters high. It began in the Spanish East Indies. At this period in history, the study of weather was not as advanced as it is today and it is uncertain how strong the storm was.
When the typhoon passed along the South China Seas, it grew and moved through the Gulf of Tonkin and skipped the island of Hainan.
Over 300,000 people got caught in the way of the typhoon. It gained the title of being the most lethal recorded in Philippine history, and the most destructive cyclone in history period. The lucrative rice fields flooded with ocean water, the waves were high, buildings disappeared, and trees came out of the ground. It hit the country so hard that the economy of Haiphong did not recover. Weather analysts forecast that it will happen again and the Vietnamese government has developed flood defense systems which include levees, a service for flood warnings and a plan for evacuation.
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