There is something that captivates us about natural disasters. Is it the power nature holds, or perhaps the intrigue? The elements that sit with such beauty every day of our lives, such as the sea, the mountains, and the snow, also carry the potential to destroy us. They are one of the only things in the world that we can never control and hardly predict. We all have studied some of the most well-known natural disasters in history, such as the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Hurricane Katrina, and The Black Plague. Lets take a look at 15 other astonishing acts of #nature that are less well known.
1958 Lituya Bay Megatsunami
On the night of July 9, 1958, an 7.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded along the Fairweather Fault in Alaska. The earthquake triggered a rockfall at Lituya Bay, and about 40 million yards of rock plunged 3000 feet down into the waters of Gilbert Inlet, generating a local tsunami. The wave that traveled across the bay following the rockfall was reported to be 98 feet high at the crest. The wave crashed against the southwest shoreline of Gilbert Inlet, and swept completely over the land that separates Gilbert Inlet from the main body of Lituya Bay. The wave then continued down the entire length of Lituya Bay, over La Chaussee Spit and into the Gulf of Alaska. The wave removed all trees and plants from the land, even as high up as 1720 feet above sea level. Millions of trees were uprooted and swept into the Gulf of Alaska. This is the highest wave that has ever been recorded.
“The wave definitely started in Gilbert Inlet, just before the end of the quake. It was not a wave at first. It was like an explosion..” – Howard Ulrich, Survivor
1815 Tambora Eruption
1816 was often called “The year without a summer.” This was due to the largest and most deadly volcano eruption in 10,000 years, which happened in April of 1815, Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. Tambora erupted and spewed 12 cubic miles of gases, dust and rock into the atmosphere and onto the islands in the surrounding area. Rivers of ash and magma poured down the mountain, burning grasslands, forests and homes, sending tsunamis racing across the Java sea in every direction. Debris from the volcano clouded the atmosphere and affected the entire planet for months, contributing to crop failure in North America and illnesses in Europe. The eruption killed more than 100,000 people, directly: through tsunamis, magma, and ash, and indirectly: through famine, illness and severe weather changes, which people were unprepared for. Floating islands of pumice up to 3 miles long were observed in April 1815, and many years after the eruption these islands still hindered travel.
1707 Hōei Earthquake
The 8.6 magnitude Hoei Earthquake struck Japan on October 28th, 1707. It was the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history until 2011. This earthquake caused severe damaged, and ruptured all the segments of the Nankai megathrust simultaneously; the only earthquake in history that has done this. There was a following landslide and destructive tsunami, about 30 feet high, which resulted in 5,000 casualties. The earthquake may also have been responsible for the last eruption of Mt. Fuji, which happened only 49 days later.
1931 China Floods
Known as the one of the greatest natural disasters ever recorded, the China Floods estimated a death toll range between 145,000 and 4 million people in 1931. In this year, three of China’s biggest rivers: The Yellow, The Yangtze, and The Huai all flooded. The flooding was due partly to weather conditions: heavy rains and unexpected snow, as well as seven cyclones. The lands next to the rivers were also overused due to farming, with dams built incorrectly and forests and wetlands that are naturally used to control the river destroyed. When the unexpected weather of 1931 happened, the rivers overflowed and dams broke and waters flooded central China. 100,000 people were killed in immediate floods, but the floods also killed crops, destroyed storage facilities, homes, and roads, leaving survivors without shelter, food or aid. Many starved to death, with the inability to find food or plant crops, and disease swept through communities with no aid or shelter.
1871 Peshtigo Fire
The Peshtigo Fire was the deadliest wildfire in recorded history, which happened on October 8th, 1871. The fire was in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and burned over 1,200,000 acres, with anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 casualties. Unfortunately, this happened on the same day as the Great Chicago fire, so it is largely forgotten. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fire, there were also fires in Holland and Manistee, Michigan, and Port Huron, Michigan, which makes some historians believe the fires were all connected.
1970 Peruvian Earthquake
On May 23rd, 1970, an 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake occurred off the coast of Lima, Peru, lasting 45 seconds. The earthquake did immense damage to buildings, roads and bridges, however, it was the avalanche that came next that had the most devastating effects. The earthquake had destabilized Mount Huascarán, causing over 300 million cubic feet of rock, ice and snow to break away and tear down its slope at more than 120 miles per hour, towards the cities of Yungay. It picked up more rock, snow and debris as it thundered down the hill, and by the time it reached the valley only three minutes later, it was a 3,000 foot-wide wave of ice, mud, and rocks. Within moments, the town of Yungay and its 25,000 inhabitants were crushed beneath the landslide. The smaller village of Ranrahirca was buried as well, making this the most devastating natural disaster in Peru’s history.
1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake, Fire and Tsunami
On All Saints Day, November 1st, 1755, There was an 8.5-9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Portugal. The effects of the earthquake were felt down into North Africa, up into Switzerland, Italy and France.The town that was most effected was Lisbon. The initial destruction from the earthquake was beyond description, where the great cathedrals, all full of worshipers on the sacred holiday, collapsed, killing thousands. The exquisite buildings along the Tagus disappeared into the river. Several fires broke out immediately following the earthquake, from candles and cooking fires. Within minutes the fires had spread, turning Lisbon into an inferno. Two thirds of the city was destroyed by the fire which raged for five days. Following the earthquake and fire, an enormous tsunami swept through the harbor and downtown area, rushing up the Tagus river. Many people died from wandering out into the ocean while the tide pulled back to look at the shipwrecks and lost cargo, not knowing that a tsunami is usually two or three waves, not only one. The three tsunami waves struck various towns along the west coast of Portugal, and damaged towns in Spain, Moroccco and Tangier, as well as many islands. In the city of Agadir, the waters passed over the walls of the city, killing many inhabitants. The tsunami took just over four hours to travel over 1000 miles to the United Kingdom. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the “Spanish Arch” section of the city wall. This event was one of the most destructive natural disasters in history, killing more than a third of the entire population of Lisbon. Tens of thousands of Portuguese who survived the earthquake were killed by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake. The tsunami was accountable for about 70,000 deaths in Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
1925 Tri-State Tornado
The Tri-State Tornado was the deadliest tornado in US history, occurring on March 18th, 1925. This was part of a deadly “tornado outbreak” which occurs when several tornadoes happen at the same time. The Tri-State Tornado was an F-5 tornado, and lasted for 3-1/2 hours, traveling through three states, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri before dissipating. There were 700 fatalities, and 15,000 buildings destroyed. Winds around it averaged 300 miles an hour, and the tornado traveled with an average speed of 65 miles-per-hour, with anywhere between a 3600 feet and mile-wide path of destruction.
1986 Lake Nyos Disaster
On August 21st, 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupted in what’s known as a limnic eruption, sending a fountain of carbon dioxide and water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide flowed down the mountain into the surrounding towns, suffocating over 1700 people and 3500 animals up to 15 miles away. It is still unknown what caused this.
1556 Shaanxi Earthquake
What has been called the deadliest earthquake on record occurred on January 23rd, 1556. A 520 mile area in China was destroyed, killing over 800,000 people, many being crushed by their homes, which were at that time primarily stone caves. Over 60% of the population of two provinces were killed. Crevasses as deep as 60 feet opened up in the earth, paths of rivers were altered which led to flooding, mountains were leveled and fires started from candles and cooking fires, which raged for days. Following this earthquake, stone buildings were abandoned, and buildings made of wood and bamboo became popular housing, as they were more flexible and made from more earthquake resistant material.
1972 Iran Blizzard
Iran’s Blizzard in February 1972 is known as the most deadly blizzard in history. Between February 3rd and February 9th, over 10 feet of snow was dropped on rural areas in Northwest and Central Iran. Southern Iran received no less than 26 feet of snow, killing over 4,000 people. Small outlying villages were the hardest hit, wiping 200 small villages completely off the map.
1792 Unzen Earthquake And Megatsunami
The Unzen earthquake, landslide and tsunami first began with volcanic activity on Mt. Unzen, on May 21st, 1792. There were first two earthquakes that came from the volcano. The earthquakes triggered a tremendous landslide, as the eastern flank of Mount Unzen’s Mayuyama dome collapsed. The landslide swept through the city of Shimbara into Ariake Bay, triggering a great tsunami, with a wave between 33–66 feet tall. The tsunami struck Higo Province on the other side of Ariake Bay before bouncing back and hitting Shimabara again. There were an estimated 15,000 deaths, around 5,000 are estimated to have perished in the landslide, around 5,000 by the tsunami across the bay in Higo Province, and 5,000 by the tsunami returning to strike Shimabara.
1868 Arica Earthquake
The Arica earthquake happened on August 13th, 1864, in Arica, Peru (now part of Chile). It was estimated to be an 8.5 or 9.0 magnitude earthquake, and multiple tsunamis were reported due to the earthquake, in Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Australia. The earthquake devastated Southern Peru, and drove three ships in the harbor almost half a mile inland. There were over 25,000 reported casualties overall.
1977 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone
The Andhra Pradesh cyclone formed on November 11th, 1977, and was known as India’s first super cyclonic storm. The island of Diviseema, was hit by a 19 foot high storm surge, which instantly killed thousands, and left bodies floating in the water along with the debris. Landslides ripped off the railway lines in the Waltair-Kirandal route, and crops were wiped out by tsunamis. Thirteen ships went missing in the storm. About 100 villages left without aid, or were completely washed away by the cyclonic storms and the ensuing floods. A total of 10,841 people were reported killed or missing, however According to the Janata party, at least 50,000 people were believed to have been killed by the storm, substantially higher than reported by the government. In the wake of the disaster, officials in India were accused of covering up the scale of damage and loss of life and claimed that the cover up was to hide criminal negligence which resulted in tens of thousands of fatalities. Following these accusations, five high-ranking government officials resigned from their positions.
1999 Vargas Tragedy
On December 15, 1999, The Vargs state of Venezuela was struck with torrential rainstorms, flash flooding and mudslides, which killed 10,000 people. The unusually wet December poured 36 inches of rain in just a few days, which triggering soil instability and debris flow. The neighborhood of Los Corales was buried under nine feet of mud, and countless homes were simply swept away to the ocean. Whole towns like Cerro Grande and Carmen de Uria completely disappeared. Ten percent of the population of the Vargas state perished during this event.
The #power of nature is captivating. As modern society advances, we feel as we control more and more every day. Perhaps having an element in our lives that we cannot control will give us more purpose and meaning to our lives, and keep us balanced. No matter how hard we try to control everything, nature is one thing that is always bigger than us.