The Top 5 Deadliest Storms of All Time

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Wars and plagues might be the most awful calamities that befall humankind in terms of the total body count, but for their deadly efficiency, storms are about the most effective forces for causing human misery. In the space of a few hours – or even minutes, sometimes – a powerful hurricane or a deadly mudslide can cause untold numbers of casualties. And there is just about nothing we can do to prevent that fact. Avoid the coasts with their hurricanes/typhoons? Then you have tornadoes. Head for the hills? Blizzards and avalanches. And so on. Most storms can be weathered, but not avoided. These were some of the worst.

5 It Happened in a Flash

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The year was 1769, and the place was Brescia, Italy. To be precise, it was the Church of the Nazaire in that city, which happened to be filled with more than a hundred tons of gunpowder. Bad news during an electrical storm. A powerful bolt of lightning struck the church and ignited the powder, causing an explosion that killed more than 3,000 people and destroyed more than 15 percent of the town itself.

4 America’s Deadliest

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The worst hurricane to ever strike America, in terms of people killed, occurred in the year 1900; based on its location of greatest carnage it has been named the Galveston Hurricane, after Galveston Island, TX. The storm traced an immense parabolic arc, traveling from near the west coast of Africa across the Atlantic, across the Caribbean, over the Gulf of Mexico and then up into and across much of the continental United States. It unleashed most of its fury, though, right on the Texas coast.

3 The Mother of All Hurricanes

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Hurricane Katrina might stick in our minds as a truly devastating storm accompanied by flooding, death and destruction, but that 2005 storm had nothing on The Great Hurricane of 1780. While records are spotty from the year, an estimated 25,000 people died, with most of the deaths occurring in various Caribbean islands, especially Barbados, St. Lucia and the Antilles. The storm also had an effect on the fleets of the Brits, French and the fledgling Americans, coming in the midst of the Revolutionary War as it did.

2 The Worst of the Worst

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In 1970, one storm led to the deaths of more than half a million people. It was the Bhola Cyclone, and it struck Bangladesh, Pakistan and India with unprecedented force. The storm itself was deadly, but most of those 500 thousand lost were killed by the ensuing floods. Millions more were left homeless, and the economy of Bangladesh, already weak, was savaged by the cyclone.

1 The Real Great Flood

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Noah’s flood has nothing on this one, because this one actually happened. And it happened in the year 1931 in China. The Central China floods were caused by a confluence of two factors: huge snowstorms in late 1930 and early 1931 led to much greater than average melt water in the Spring of 1931, and then huge rainstorms further swelled the already elevated Yellow, Huai and Yangtze rivers, leading to a series of floods that left as many as four million people dead.

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