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What Were the Worst Disasters of the 2010s?

Visible satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Hundreds and thousands have lost their lives and billions have been displaced all around the world in the face of catastrophic acts of nature. Disasters happen ever since the dawn of time, but Mother Nature seems to have shown her full force during the past 10 years. From earthquakes, to floods, to bushfires to hurricanes, here are the worst disasters that happened in the 2010s:

1. Haiti Earthquake (2010)

After just a few days into the decade, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the small Caribbean country of Haiti. In January 12, 2010, the earthquake devastated Haiti with a big quake plus a series of aftershocks that continued to rock the island nation. The death toll was estimated to be around 200,000 people, with much more people injured. This kind of death toll stands as the worst in terms of the casualties in the past decade, and among the highest death toll of all time.

The quake also left more than five million people in total displaced. The nation was already suffering from poverty before the quake, but the disaster only worsened their situation. Even after 10 years, the nation struggled to fully recover, despite the billions of aid given to the nation.

2. Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster (2011)

Japan became a victim of Mother Nature’s harsh fury when a magnitude 9.1 earthquake shook its eastern side on March 11, 2011. This was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit the country. The high intensity of the earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami, with a wave that rose 133 feet at highest and traveled as far as six miles in land. More than 20,000 people were killed, and in a country known for its wealth and well-developed infrastructure, that number was truly a hard blow.

And while the nation is suffering enough, it was also faced with the fear of a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant. The quake also triggered a series of nuclear meltdowns and large-scale release of radio-active material from the power plant – a disaster that was on the scale of the 1986 Chernobyl crisis.

3. Hurricane Sandy (2012)

Hurricane Sandy is one of the strongest, deadliest, and most destructive hurricane of the decade. During that time, Hurricane Sandy was the most expensive storm since Hurricane Katrina, which caused $128 billion in damage. The hurricane made landfall first in Jamaica, then in Cuba, Haiti and The Bahamas, before landing in the US. In the final weeks of October 2012, it devastated the northeast of the US, Canada, and the Caribbean. Thousands of houses and buildings were destroyed, with millions of people left without power and gas for weeks. The storm affected more than 24 states, taking large swathes of New York and New Jersey. It brought New York City offline.

Many people were trapped in high-rise buildings, unable to evacuate or get supplies, and some were chocked off from power and heat. The total death toll reached 285, with at least 125 of those from the United States.

4. Typhoon Haiyan (2013)

Typhoon Haiyan is responsible for the most deaths of a natural disaster in 2013. It was considered as the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall. Known in the Philippines as Yolanda, the typhoon devastated the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines in December 2013, and also affected Palau, Vietnam, and China.

So far, the worst-hit region was the central Philippines, as it killed at least 6,300 people in the country alone.  More than 1 million people’s homes were damaged, and more than 600,000 people were displaced. Typhoon Haiyan is considered as the strongest tropical cyclone, and CNN reported that it was even stronger than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined.

5. Ludian Earthquake (2014)

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck in China’s southwest province of Yunnan in August 2014, wherein more than 600 people died, and injured at least 2,400 others.This devastating earthquake caused over 12,000 houses to collapse and 30,000 more damaged.

The earthquake also triggered landslides, and the disaster was worsened by heavy rains, devastating the region further.

6. Nepal Earthquake (2015)

Also known as the Gorkha earthquake, the Nepal earthquake in 2015 killed nearly 9,000 people and injured about 22,000. On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, which toppled multi-story buildings in its capital Kathmandu. It left thousands of homes and buildings including schools, to be destroyed. The weak infrastructure in Nepal made the earthquake dangerous. The death toll is thought to be higher because it happened in a Saturday afternoon when more people are outside their homes.

After the initial quake, powerful aftershocks were felt across the country for weeks. The quake also created landslides and avalanches in the Himalayas. The mountainous terrain in Nepal made it hard to access remote areas, leaving many of the injured stranded.

7. Ecuador Earthquake (2016)

Here’s another destructive earthquake that happened on a Saturday of April. In April 16, 2016, Ecuador was shaken by a 7.8 magnitude quake that saw buildings turn to rubble in an instant. This disaster killed almost 700 people and brought homes, schools, and infrastructure to collapse. More than 6,000 people were severely injured.

Some of the worst-hit areas were popular tourist regions of the nation. Rescue efforts were hampered by destroyed roads, lack of water, and poor communication lines.

8. Hurricane Maria (2017)

In September 2017, a deadly Category 5 hurricane struck Dominica, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix. Hurricane Maria is considered to be the worst natural disaster recorded in history to affect the Caribbean islands. More than 3,000 lives were claimed as a result of the storm, and both Puerto Rico and Dominica were left devastated.

However, the storm drew attention to Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory. About 3.4 million people went without power for months, and it’s also thought to be a major factor that caused many of the deaths attributed to the storm. Also, the recovery efforts became a political affair, as Puerto Rico’s government urged Congress to approve aid relief packages. Trump was also criticized for not taking any action regarding the disaster until almost a week after the hurricane’s landfall.

9. Australian Droughts (2018)

Droughts were a common phenomenon in Australia throughout history, but in 2018, the state of New South Wales made international headlines when 100% of the state was in drought or drought-affected. Many parts of eastern and central New South Wales had well below average rainfall since 2017. Also, nearly 60% of Queensland was suffering in what has been described by Australian farmers as the worst drought in more than a century.

Farmers struggled in this drought crisis that devastated large parts of eastern Australia’s crop land, which supplies around a third of the nation’s wheat. Heartbreaking stories of people struggling to feed their families, dying cattle and livestock, and deteriorating mental health emerged in multitudes.

10. Global Wildfires (2019)

Massive wildfires devastated the world in 2019. In June 2019, bushfires started in Australia, ravaging the New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and more regions in recent months, which went on until March 2020. Colloquially known as the Black Summer, the 2019-2020 Australian bushfire season burned more than 18 million hectares of land, and caused destruction to more than 9,000 buildings.

Another major wildfire that happened in 2015 destroyed the Amazon rainforest in South America, which gained global attention as thousands of people were crying out, claiming that not enough attention was being given to stop the blaze. More than 80,000 fires broke out across Brazil, with nearly half of it happened in the Amazon rainforest. The rainforest destruction in Brazil is at its highest rate in more than a decade. The wildfires in the largest rainforest in the world were so large that the smoke plumes could be seen from outer space.

California also experienced a large wildfire that destroyed around 260,000 acres of land. As of December 22, the Cal Fire and the US Forest Service recorded more than 7,860 fires.

In Asia, both Indonesia and South Korea experienced deadly wildfires that claimed millions of acres of land.

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