The Worst Natural Disasters Of The 21st Century

Published August 28, 2011
Updated February 12, 2024

From Hurricane Katrina to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a fascinating look at the world's worst natural disasters of the 21st century.

From Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, we look at the most devastating natural disasters of the 21st century:

Worst Natural Disasters In History

The Worst Natural Disasters: The Haitian Earthquake, Haiti, 2010

In January 2010, one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded in history hit Haiti. The earthquake that struck west of the capital, Port-Au-Prince, measured 7.0 on the Richter scale with 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater.

It is estimated that 230,000 people died, 300,000 people were injured, and over one million were made homeless in one of history’s most devastating natural disasters. The destruction spread throughout the region, destroying a quarter of a million homes and 30,000 other buildings.

After Affects of the Haitian Earthquake

Haiti Earthquake Photograph

Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2004

Indian Ocean Tsunami

2004 Tsunami

In the early morning of December 26, 2004, an earthquake struck on the Pacific sea floor, 150 miles off the west coast of the Indonesian island Sumatra. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake quickly gave rise to a tsunami that within hours of the initial earthquake, hit the shorelines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and the Maldives.

The waves, reaching 30 feet high, and racing at the speed of a jet aircraft, engulfed the coastal regions and killed more than 230,000 people and displacing millions more.

2004 Tsunami Picture

Worst Natural Disasters Of The 21st Century Tsunami


Worst Natural Disasters Of The 21st Century: Hurricane Katrina, USA, 2005

Superdome During Hurricane Katrina Picture

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina, the costliest and sixth deadliest hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast of America in August 2005. Formed over the Bahamas, the hurricane crossed to southeast Louisiana as a Category 3 storm, causing destruction from central Florida to Texas, with the most lives lost and damages sustained in New Orleans.

Over 1,800 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods and the damage from the disaster totaled $81 billion (USD). Rebuilding efforts continue to date.

Hurricane Katrina Pictures

Hurricane Katrina Devastating Natural Disasters

Hurricane Katrina Photograph

Cyclone Nargis, Burma, Sri Lanka, 2008

Cyclone Nargis Photograph

Victims of Cyclone Nargis Picture

At the end of April 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Sri Lanka and Burma, causing widespread destruction. In Sri Lanka, the cyclone caused massive flooding and landslides, and in Burma it resulted in over 100,000 deaths. Overall, 150,000 people died in the cyclone and its aftermath, 50,000 went missing, and the nations incurred a $10 billion damages bill.

21st Century Worst Natural Disasters

Devastating Natural Disasters Cyclone Nargis

Cyclone Nargis

Cyclone Nargis Destruction Photograph

If you enjoyed reading about the most worst natural disasters, check out our posts on the most devastating pandemics and the most devastating hurricanes.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.