Natural disasters can strike instantly, leaving widespread destruction and death. Throughout human history, people have seen the power of
10. Bhola Cyclone, 500,000 Deaths
The Bhola tropical cyclone, the deadliest cyclone ever recorded, it killed about 500,000 people when it struck East Pakistan (what’s now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on Nov. 12, 1970. It formed over the Bay of Bengal on Nov 8 and intensified as it traveled north, reaching its peak with winds as fast as 115 mph on Nov. 11 and making landfall on Nov. 12. Most deaths were attributed to a storm surge that took over the shore and flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta.
9. 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake, 830,000 Deaths
The Shaanxi earthquake on Jan. 23, 1556, is the deadliest earthquake ever recorded and one of the deadliest events in human history. About 830,000 people died as the earthquake affected more than 97 counties, killing as much as 60 percent of the population in some counties. The earthquake was especially troubling for people living in earth shelters that people carve in hillsides.
8. 1887 Yellow River Flood, 900,000 Deaths
The Yellow River flood that started in September 1887 remains one of the deadliest natural disasters on record. A heavy rain elevated the river, causing it to overcome dikes and spread throughout northern China. About 11 large Chinese towns and hundreds of villages were affected, leaving millions homeless and triggering a pandemic that left many deaths in its wake. The death toll is estimated to be between 900,000 and 2 million people.
7. 1931 China Floods, 3.7 Million Deaths
The worst natural disaster of the 20th century and one of the deadliest events in human history occurred in 1931 when China’s Yangtze River flooded. The river runs through one of the world’s most populated areas. It flooded over a 500-square-mile area, leaving about 500,000 people homeless. Rice crops that major cities like Wuhan and Nanjing depended on were destroyed, leaving many to starve to death. Typhoid and dysentery also took lives, pushing the death toll up to about 3.7 million.
6. Holocaust, 6 Million Plus Deaths
About 6 million Jews, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population and two-fifths of the world’s Jews, died in the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and slaughter spread under Nazi rule. Add onto that more than 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, more than two million Soviet civilians, more than one million Polish civilians, about 70,000 people with mental and physical handicaps and more? It climbs to the high estimate of about 17 million.
5. Transatlantic Slave Trade, 10 Million Plus Deaths
It’s hard to put a death toll on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that stretched from the 16 century into the 19th century. European empires asserting their power in the New World used West African slaves to fill labor needs. There are estimates that for every ten slaves taken on a ship, four died from mistreatment. Rudolph Rummel, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, collected data on collective violence and war over his career and estimated that more than 13.6 million slaves alone died going to the Americas.
4. World War I, 17 Million Deaths
World War I stands at one of the deadliest conflicts in human history and one of the deadliest events in human history. More than 17 million military and civilian deaths were attributed to the worldwide conflict. that included about 11 million soldiers and about 7 million civilians. Warfare accounted for about two-thirds of the military deaths, unlike 19th-century conflicts in which the majority of deaths came about because of disease.
3. Taiping Rebellion, 40 Million Deaths
The Manchu-led Qing dynasty and Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, a Christian millenarian movement, battled between 1850 and 1864 in what became one of the deadliest events in human history. Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus, led the rebellion against the Qing dynasty. Estimates range from 20 to 70 million dead, making it the world’s deadliest civil war and one of the deadliest wars in human history.
2. World War II, 60 Million Deaths
World War I was considered the Great War but was later dwarfed by the number of casualties in World War II. About 3 percent of the 1940 world population of about 2.3 billion died as a result of World War II. When adding in war-related famine and disease, the death toll climbs to more than 80 million including 50 to 55 million civilians. The military death toll estimate is between 21 to 25 million including about 5 million prisoners of war who died in captivity.
1. European Colonization of Americas, 95 Million Deaths
One of the biggest episodes of genocide was the European colonization of the Americas, resulting in an estimated death toll of 95 million people or more. Indigenous people of the Americas died not only from conquest but from smallpox, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever and other diseases brought over by European colonists. That, according to many estimates, outnumbered the deaths caused by massacre and conquest.