10 Worst Natural Disasters of the 2000s

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10 Worst Natural Disasters of the 2000s

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
These disasters defined a decade. For this list, we're looking at the most devastating and deadly storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, mudslides, heat waves and other natural phenomena the planet experienced from 2000 to 2009. Our countdown includes Hurricane Katrina, 2001 Gujarat Earthquake, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami, and more!
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10 Worst Natural Disasters of the 2000s


Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re taking a look at 10 of the worst natural disasters of the 2000s.

For this list, we’re looking at the most devastating and deadly storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, mudslides, heat waves and other natural phenomena the planet experienced from 2000 to 2009.

Let us know in the comments which of these events you’ll always remember.

#10: Hurricane Katrina

For many, the memory of this hurricane that ravaged the southeast coast of the United States in 2005 remains all too vivid. Given the widespread damage and a death toll of over 1,800 people, the government response was widely criticized as insufficient. While Cuba and parts of Florida were also hit, roughly 80% of New Orleans was submerged in water due to the failure of the city’s flood barriers – which hadn’t been properly maintained. A lack of proper facilities meant people were forced to take shelter in the Superdome. Katrina remains one of the costliest hurricanes on record, generating $125 billion in damages.

#9: Hurricane Jeanne

Of the 3,037 lives lost in this disaster, almost all of them occurred in Haiti, the country hit hardest by the storm. The category 3 hurricane eventually became the deadliest storm of 2004, causing billions of dollars in damages in addition to its devastating death toll. A quarter of a million Haitians were left homeless by Jeanne when widespread flooding and dangerous mudslides destroyed many homes. It was the rain rather than high winds that caused most of the chaos, bringing flash floods not only to the Caribbean but eventually to most of the US’s eastern seaboard, destroying food supplies in the process. It reached as far north as New Jersey before it finally dissipated.

#8: 2006 Yogyakarta Earthquake

Over 5,700 people lost their lives after this earthquake struck Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, in May of 2006. The earthquake’s epicenter was close to the major city of Yogyakarta and was, unfortunately, a very shallow quake. Add that a magnitude of 6.4, and this meant the shaking was stronger and spread much further than it would have if it were deeper in the ground. Homes, roads, and infrastructure were destroyed, which greatly hindered the relief effort. Much of the damage was caused by the poor build quality of the structures in the region, which easily collapsed under the stress of the earthquake. Soil liquefaction and landslides worsened an already dire situation.

#7: Cyclone Sidr

Years later, and the true death toll of Cyclone Sidr still isn’t known. The cyclone struck Bangladesh in 2007, and estimates range from roughly 3,400 casualties to a significantly higher figure of 15,000. Sidr brought with it wind speeds of roughly 160 miles per hour and huge storm surges. On top of the deaths, more than 1,000 people were reported missing in the disaster, with tens of thousands needing medical treatment for their injuries. Many also contracted diseases and infections from the floodwaters. Sidr was one of the most lethal and costly disasters to ever strike Bangladesh, leading to over $2.3 billion dollars in damages.

#6: 2001 Gujarat Earthquake

On the 26th of January 2001, the Indian state of Gujarat was hit by an inland earthquake with a 7.7 magnitude. Immediately, the shallow quake caused widespread destruction in many major cities. Hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed and many other important buildings besides, including two hospitals in Bhuj. All in all, up to 20,000 people, mostly in India but also in Pakistan, were killed by the disaster. Over 166,000 people were injured and crops were destroyed, causing food shortages. It took a long time for the severe damage to be repaired and for Gujarat to recover.

#5: 2003 European Heatwave

The summer of 2003 brought soaring temperatures to Western Europe, leading to over 70,000 deaths. Of those, nearly 15,000 died in France, and 12,000 in Spain, with thousands more losing their lives in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Portugal. For over a week, France experienced temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Unused to such conditions, and with most homes lacking air conditioning, people were overcome by heatstroke and dehydration. Hospitals quickly became overloaded. Another heat wave would strike Europe in 2006, killing over 2,000 people in France alone.

#4: 2005 Kashmir Earthquake

In October 2005, a powerful earthquake sent shockwaves through not only Pakistan, where the epicenter was, but also parts of neighboring Afghanistan and India. While the effects were far-reaching, the earthquake hit Pakistan hardest, destroying the town of Balakot almost in its entirety and causing widespread damage to the region of Kashmir. 32,000 buildings collapsed, contributing to a huge death toll of over 87,300 people, with almost as many injured. 2.8 million people were left homeless and hundreds of thousands of animals died as well. To make matters worse, that October was particularly cold, making conditions even harder for people left without shelter in the immediate aftermath. It remains the deadliest earthquake to hit South Asia.

#3: Great Sichuan Earthquake

The earthquake that struck the Sichuan province of China on May 12th, 2008 was so strong that its tremors spanned thousands of miles, reaching Shanghai and Beijing. Within Sichuan, and the city of Chengdu in particular, the destruction of poorly-made schools caused the tragic deaths of thousands of children who were in class at the time. After the main earthquake, there were over 40,000 aftershocks, with hundreds of them being major quakes in their own right. The non-stop shaking continued to cause chaos but also triggered deadly mudslides. All told, more than 69,000 people lost their lives, with another 18,000 reported as missing.

#2: Cyclone Nargis

The sixth-deadliest tropical cyclone of all time, Cyclone Nargis claimed the lives of over 138,000 people. Making landfall on May 2, 2008, Nargis sent a massive storm surge 25 miles inland. At the time, Myanmar had no effective system to track dangerous storms and warn people. To make matters worse, there was essentially no plan for relief or evacuation, and Myanmar’s military junta initially resisted international aid. The mishandling of the disaster led not only to the inconceivable loss of life but also widespread homelessness and disease outbreaks in the wake of the storm.

#1: 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

The undersea earthquake that shook the Indian Ocean floor on December 26th, 2004 was one of the strongest in history. With a staggering magnitude of 9.1, it struck just off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, generating immense tsunami waves that were responsible for most of the damage. 100 foot waves washed over parts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The majority of the fatalities occurred in Aceh, Indonesia. At the time, there was no warning system for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean; people had no idea what was coming, with many still on the shore, or even following the water out as it receded before the waves hit. Roughly 230,000 people perished in the disaster, which remains the deadliest tsunami in recorded history.
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