Over the centuries there have been many natural disasters or “Acts of God” that have left a long trail of death and destruction behind in the history of mankind. It gives us a reminder, on a regular basis of the fact that Mother Nature and not humanity is in charge, after all. We, as mere mortals can neither prevent them nor predict them accurately. Rather we can just anticipate and prepare for them. Below is the countdown of nature’s most dangerous and deadliest calamities we have ever heard of.
1. Asteroid strike
The threat of earth being hit by an asteroid is accepted as the greatest natural disaster faced by humanity, having the potential to wipe off the entire human race. This gives us one reason of why it’s important to watch the skies and keep track of what’s out there. The probability of such a cosmos impact is 1 in 100,000 years that is less than 1% chance of hitting the earth. Though this seems trivial, but when stakes are high you don’t rely on luck. NASA has been shedding a lot of money on projects that may more or less avoid any such collision with our earth. One such project is NEO Shield project, being commenced, with help from scientists across Europe, Russia and the US.
Earthquakes are not only measured on Richter scale but also on the scale of personal loss. . The deadliest earthquake recorded in history was on January 23, 1556 in Shaanxi, China. It devastated around 520 miles of area and resulted in more than 20 meters deep crevices and landslides, which collapsed numerous dwellings. The death toll of this devastating calamity was 830,000, which is over 60% of the region’s population though its magnitude was only 8.0 on the Richter scale. Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and usually without warning. It is impossible to determine their true potential before they strike; hence the extent of damage they can cause is highly unpredictable. Identifying potential hazards before time and planning in advance can reduce the dangers of loss of life and property from an earthquake. Depending upon its magnitude it can cause other catastrophes like Tsunami, Volcanic eruptions, Landslides, Fires etc. Though earthquakes aren’t deadly, the aftermaths are. Sometimes earthquakes are actually fore-shocks and an indication that a larger earthquake might occur.
If you see the water recede quickly and unexpectedly from a beach or if you are on the coast and there is an earthquake ,run toward higher ground or inland—there may be a tsunami coming. This is another natural disaster claiming the lives of thousands of people. It has devastated countries such as Haiti, Indonesia, China, and the United States. Tsunami is regarded as the most horrific disasters of all times. About 80% of tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, but they can occur anywhere from oceans, seas to even lakes. They are caused by underwater earthquakes, landslides, volcanic explosions and glacier calving. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which had a magnitude of 9.3, triggered a series of lethal tsunamis on December 26, 2004, killing approximately 230,210 people, making it the deadliest tsunami in recorded history.
It is a typical cycle accompanied by thunderstorm. Its speed can exceed 155 miles per hour and it may even trigger tornadoes, floods and landslides due to extremely high speed winds and heavy rains. Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005. At least 1,833 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. The total property damage was estimated around $81 billion.
Volcanic eruptions are the most beautiful and eye-catching yet the most dangerous disasters of time. What makes volcano a deadly disaster is its effects which include, the volcanic eruption itself that is the explosion of the volcano, second is the lava erupting out of the volcano charring and burning everything in its way, and the third is the cooled-ash, which if inhaled even in small quantity by humans can be harmful. Scientists have unearthed the evidences that support the theory of dinosaurs’ extinction caused by a series of eruptions in the past. Human history has records of a whole civilization being wiped off from a volcanic eruption. It is believed that in 1600 BC, the whole Minoan civilization, which once existed in Greece, was removed from the face of the earth due to one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of all time.
You should always be aware of the flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you are living in a low lying area, or near a river, a dam or a lake. Floods can take the shape of a serious hazard, carrying rocks, mud and other debris with its flow. Flow can occur due to excess rainfall, dam breaks or melting glaciers. Some floods can develop slowly while others can develop as Flash floods, destroying everything in its path. The Uttarakhand floods have been one of the worst disasters in India so far, claiming thousands of lives and rendering hundreds homeless.
Tornadoes are the most violent storms of nature. The rotating funnel shaped cloud of a tornado can reach up to 300 miles per hour. They may strike with little or no warning at all. Tornadoes have the potential to uproot trees and houses, pick them up into the funnel of cloud and carry over long distances, until the storm dies down. Apart from normal tornadoes there exist fire tornadoes whose cores are actually on fire. Fire whirls, as they are called, are usually quite slow moving. They can set objects in their paths ablaze and can hurl burning debris out into their surroundings.
There is a thunderstorm approaching in your direction. The winds are fast, and you can hear the clouds thunder on and off, but that’s not bothering you from being outside and having fun. Suddenly your hair stands up straight! Until you can realize what is happening, you are struck by lightning, with a prior though short warning. Around 73 people are struck by lightning every year in USA. The survivors of lightning strikes often suffer from long term memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, fatigue, muscle spasms, irritability, and depression. Though chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but this number can be possibly reduced by following some safety measure and precautions.
They are just like avalanches with debris and mud instead of snow. They can flow at rapid speed striking with little or sometimes no warning at all. Though landslides may be triggered by heavy rains, but they are mainly prone in areas where the soil is loose due to loss of vegetation cover.The roots of trees tend to hold the soil together, in absence of which it becomes loose and with a little accumulation of water it turns into the flowing river of mud and slurry.
There goes a myth in mountains that loud noises like shouts trigger avalanches, however loud noises do not have enough force to generate an avalanche. Avalanche is a rapid flow of snow sliding down a mountain side. It is same as a landslide only with snow instead of earth. In mountainous regions, avalanches are counted among the most serious hazards to life and property, with their destructive capability to carry enormous masses of snow at high speeds. Major causes of avalanche are weather, snowfall, temperature, wind direction, snow pack conditions, sloppy terrain and man-made influences. Although primarily composed of flowing snow, large avalanches have the capability to bring down ice, rocks, trees, and other material on the slope with them, concreting everything in its way, under a pack of ice. The worst case of Avalanche was the Huascaran avalanche, triggered by Ancash earthquake, 1970, in Peru. It claimed 20,000 lives, the worst known death tolls so far caused by an avalanche.