Disasters are ranked based on damage, loss of lives, or the amount of money that it cost to rebuild. Therefore, ranking the worst natural disasters of all times is subjective and depends on the criteria used.
Japan is still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami that struck its north-east coast on March 11th, 2011 and estimates released by the World Bank put the economic damage resulting from the disaster at as much as $235 billion. That figure would make this disaster the costliest since comparable records began in 1965.
In contrast, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, even though it caused some 250,000 deaths, the economic losses amounted to only $14 billion, partly because of low property and land values in the affected areas.
Below is a table of the Ten Costliest Disasters since 1980, based on overall loss as ranked by Munich Re Group. Munich Re is a reinsurance company based in Munich, Germany. It is one of the world’s leading reinsurers.
Table. Ten Costliest Disasters by Overall Losses - U.S. $ (1980-2013)
|2011 Nov 3||Earthquake, tsunami||Japan: Honshu, Aomori, Tohoku; Miyagi, Sendai; Fukushima, Mito; Ibaraki; Tochigi, Utsunomiya||$235||15,840|
|2005 Aug 25-30||Hurricane Katrina, storm surge||USA: LA, New Orleans, Slidell; MS, Biloxi, Pascagoula, Waveland, Gulfport||$125||1,322|
|1995 Jan 17||Earthquake||Japan: Hyogo, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto||$100||6,430|
|2008 Dec 5||Earthquake||China: Sichuan, Mianyang, Beichuan, Wenchuan, Shifang, Chengdu, Guangyuan, Ngawa, Ya'an||$85||84,000|
|2012 Oct 24-31||Hurricane Sandy, storm surge||Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica,Puerto Rico, USA, Canada||$65||210|
|1994 Jan 17||Earthquake||USA: CA, Northridge, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Ventura, Orange||$44||61|
|2011 Jan 8-15||Floods||Thailand: Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Phra Nakhon Si Ayuttaya, Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, Bangkok||$43||813|
|2008 Sept 1-14||Hurricane Ike||Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, USA||$38||170|
|1998 May-Sept||Floods||China: Jangtsekiang, Songhua Jiang||$30.70||4,159|
|2010 Feb 27||Earthquake, tsunami||Chile: Bio Bio, Concepcion, Talcahuano, Coronel, Dichato, Chillan; Del Maule, Talca, Curico||$30||520|
|2013 May||Floods||South and east German states, western regions of the Czech Republic (Bohemia), and Austria. In addition, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belarus, Poland, Hungary and Serbia (Vojvodina) been affected to a lesser extent.||$22||24|
- World Bank: World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update 2011, Vol 1: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEAPHALFYEARLYUPDATE/Resources/550192-1300567391916/EAP_Update_March2011_japan.pdf
- World Bank: World Bank Response to the Tsunami Disaster, February 2, 2005: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/COUNTRIES/Resources/tsunamireport-020205.doc
- Munich Reinsurance Company. Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE: http://www.munichre.com/en/reinsurance/business/non-life/georisks/natcatservice/significant_natural_catastrophes.aspx
- Image Source: http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2013/11/typhoon-haiyan/ [Accessed Dec 12, 2013]