10 of the Deadliest Natural Disasters in the World Since 1980

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An earthquake in China’s west-central Sichuan province struck this Sept. 5, killing more than two dozen people, injuring hundreds more, and damaging thousands of homes. The moderately strong earthquake was the second to strike the province since 2017, when a quake centered around the town of Zhangzha induced similar damages.

Neither of these quakes compare to one that struck beneath Sichuan’s provincial capital of Chengdu on May 12, 2008. That much larger quake delivered a direct strike under a more densely populated area, and sent waves that were felt by residents of Shanghai, more than 1,000 miles away. About 88,000 people in and near the epicenter were killed in one of the most destructive earthquakes ever recorded. (These are the countries in which the most people have died in natural disasters.)

Earthquakes are the most common natural disasters to wreak such extensive mayhem. Cyclones (or hurricanes, as they’re called in the Western Hemisphere) and months-long heat waves also feature prominently among deadly natural disasters.

To compile a list of 10 of the deadliest natural disasters since 1980, 24/7 Tempo reviewed information compiled by the consumer data site Statista, covering natural disasters occurring through January 2022 – though no disasters deadly enough to qualify for inclusion in our list date from later than 2010.  

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Of the ten deadliest natural disasters since 1980, six of them were earthquakes, including the Sichuan quake of 2008, and two that rattled Iran (in 1990 and 2003). Two were cyclones that struck Bangladesh and Myanmar in 1991 and 2008, respectively, and two were intense heat waves that struck Europe in 2003 and 2010. (These are the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded.)

Taken together, these 10 disasters killed more than a million people and laid waste to homes, buildings, farmlands, and infrastructure.