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September 2, 2009

‘When Nature Gets Angry’ – The Worst Natural Disasters Caused By Wind

Posted by : admin
Filed under : General Green
This is a visualized report about the worst wind disasters in the world, the Power of Wind and the disastrous destruction a major wind storm can cause.

Wind disasters have an affect on the world’s billions of people and more than often, when disaster strikes, it hits the poorest of the poor.

You are in a city or town hit by a cyclone, typhoon or hurricane. The first breeze – the ones that make the trees bend – arrives quite slowly but increases in intensity either in a matter of hours or days.

In the sophisticated western world, warnings and forecasts are published early and all affected will know what is to be expected and can make precautious arrangements, yet in remoter, poor and rural areas in Asia lets say, there are no such communication facilities and residents are left to their own devices.

…and then the full force of nature strikes home to devastating affect. Full scaled Hurricanes, Typhoons, Cyclones ravage across your land and takes everything with it which is in its way.

At the greatest risk are humans which are poor, and more than often live in a country with corrupt, dishonest or ineffective government.

The odds are quite high that you already do so. This is because more than half the world lives in cities. By 2010, 73% of the world’s urban dwellers will be in the developing world and many of them will be in unregulated housing. There are a billion people already living in shanty towns and slums, and this figure is rising by 25 million a year.

If the walls collapse and the roof falls in, they are more likely to do so in your slum tenement, or at your children’s school, or in the shabby sweatshop where you hope to make a dollar a day.

Vanuatu, the coral island paradise in the Pacific for example, has the dubious honour of being home to the greatest number of potential fatalities in a tropical cyclone, as a proportion of population, with St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean not far behind. Both groups of islands lie in the paths of tropical storms. And both are poor.

The number of people in Japan at risk from typhoons is more or less the same number as those at risk in the Philippines. However, fatalities in the Philippines are 17 times more likely than in Japan. It pays, in every sense, not to be poor.

Natural disasters hurt the rich, too. The world’s most costly natural disasters have been in the United States and Japan. But both countries have huge, resilient economies, and their citizens have insurance policies, jobs to go to, money in the bank, good roads, helpful communities and governments with a clear idea of how to respond. Individuals suffer, but communities recover.

Natural disasters exact a terrible and enduring toll on the poorest countries. People who escape with their lives may lose everything else in a flood or cyclone: family, house, crops, livestock, tools, bedding, stores, friends, roads, schools – and the nearest medical clinic. They may also live under a government that can do nothing, or will do nothing, to help.

And because of population and economic growth, greenhouse gases increase, so the frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards is also likely to grow.

Here is a summary of the world’s biggest wind disasters in human history. It is by far not complete but should give you an impressive overview about the power of wind.


Cyclones are large revolving tropical storms caused by winds blowing around a central area of low atmospheric pressure. In the southern hemisphere these tropical storms are called cyclones and rotate in a clockwise direction, while in the northern hemisphere cyclones are called hurricanes or typhoons and rotate in an anti-clockwise direction.

Cyclones develop over warm waters in the tropical regions of the oceans where areas of very low pressure are created by air being heated by the sun. This causes the air to rise very rapidly and becomes saturated with moisture that condenses into large thunderclouds.

Cool air rushes in to fill the void and is bent inwards and spirals upwards with a great force caused by the coriolis effect of the earth spinning on its axis. The result of all this is – the winds begin to rotate faster and form a large rotating weather system, in some cases up to several thousand km in diameter.

1970 Bhola cyclone

Winds: 130mph

Pressure: 966mb

Fatalities: 300,000–500,000 (Deadliest tropical cyclone of all time)

Damage: $480 million (2008 USD)

Areas affected: India, East Pakistan

The Bhola Cyclone hit the coasts of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1970. It was expected by local people as a small-scale storm turned out to be the deadliest tropical cyclone in living history. On November 8, the Cyclone formed over the Bay of Bengal and headed north. It intensified to such a degree that when it hit the coast on November 12, top winds were raging at a staggering 185 km/h. More than 500,000 people lost their lives and entire villages were wiped out. Hundreds and thousands of acres of crops were devastated. In the severely affected areas of Thana, more than 45% of the population was drowned. The impact on the victims intensified as the instability of the government caused delays in bringing swift relief and aid.

The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970. It was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times. Up to 500,000 people lost their lives in the storm, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta. This cyclone was the sixth cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and also the season’s strongest, reaching a strength equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane.

The cyclone formed over the central Bay of Bengal on November 8 and travelled north, intensifying as it did so. It reached its peak with winds of 185 km/h (115 mph) on November 12, and made landfall on the coast of East Pakistan that night. The storm surge devastated many of the offshore islands, wiping out villages and destroying crops throughout the region. In the most severely affected Thana, Tazumuddin, over 45% of the population of 167,000 was killed by the storm.

The Pakistani government was severely criticized for its handling of the relief operations following the storm, both by local political leaders in East Pakistan and in the international media. The opposition Awami League gained a landslide victory in the province, and continuing unrest between East Pakistan and the central government triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War, which concluded with the creation of the state of Bangladesh.


A hurricane is an intense, rotating oceanic weather system that possesses maximum sustained winds exceeding 119 km/hr (74 mph). It forms and intensifies over tropical oceanic regions.

Hurricanes are generally smaller than storms in mid-latitudes, typically about 500 km (311 miles) in diameter. At the ocean’s surface, the air spirals inward in a counter clockwise direction. This cyclonic circulation becomes weaker with height, eventually turning into clockwise (anticyclonic) outflow near the top of the storm.

Hurricane Nora (1966)

The name Nora has been used for four tropical cyclones in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and ten tropical cyclones in the Western Pacific.

The exact death toll will never be known, but it is estimated that between 300,000 and 500,000 people lost their lives

A tropical wave organized into a tropical depression on November 7 to the south of Mexico. It moved to the northwest and strengthened into Tropical Storm Nora the next day. On November 9, Nora became the first hurricane to form in November in the northern East Pacific basin since satellite observations began in 1966. It peaked as a Category 2 hurricane on November 10. A large trough moved in from the west and formed a low.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Nora from the Pacific, which had lasted for two days in the South China Sea, moved west over the Malay Peninsula on November 5th. The remnants of this system contributed to the development of a new depression in the central Bay of Bengal on the morning of November 8th. The depression intensified as it moved slowly northward, and the India Meteorological Department upgraded it to a cyclonic storm the next day. The storm became nearly stationary that evening near 14.5°N, 87°E, but began to accelerate to the north on November 10th.

The cyclone intensified into a severe cyclonic storm on November 11th and began to turn towards the northeast as it approached the head of the bay. A clear eye formed in the storm, and it reached its peak later that day with sustained winds of 115mph and a central pressure of 966mb, equivalent to that of a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

The cyclone made landfall on the East Pakistan coastline during the evening of November 12th, around the same time as the local high tide. Once over land, the system began to weaken but was still considered a cyclonic storm on November 13th when it was about 65 miles south-southeast of Agartala. The storm then rapidly weakened into a remnant area of low pressure over southern Assam that evening. The 1970 cyclone is nonetheless the deadliest tropical cyclone on record and is one of the deadliest natural disasters in recent history.

The exact death toll will never be known, but it is estimated that between 300,000 and 500,000 people lost their lives. A comparable number of people died as a result of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, but because of uncertainty in the number of deaths in all three disasters, it may never be known which one was the deadliest.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina started as a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean in August of 2005. As it grew stronger it became a category 5 hurricane with wind speeds up to 160 miles per hour. Hurricane Katrina hit land in the morning of August 29th hitting Louisiana and Mississippi the hardest. People were warned to leave their homes for safety, but there were people who didn’t believe it would be that bad. Then when it did come they didn’t have anything to do, except wait for help. Many people died. There were lots of broken hearts after Katrina. Now people are building homes for those who lost theirs in Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina, however, was a major international story. It struck the vulnerable US Gulf Coast in August 2005 and brings the still-rising death count to over 1,000, which is serious but not remarkable for a major disaster.

But together with extensive urban flooding that was a secondary effect, damage estimates from insurance costs alone are at $30 billion, with total rebuilding likely to exceed Kobe. This is easily the most expensive disaster ever to hit the US, eclipsing Andrew in 1992. Interestingly both hurricanes landed twice, first in Florida, then in Louisiana. From Andrew the death toll was ‘only’ 26, but the property damage added up to (what was then) a staggering $25 billion

Hurricane Katrina formed as Tropical Depression Twelve over the south eastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005 as the result of an interaction of a tropical wave and the remains of Tropical Depression Ten.

The system was upgraded to tropical storm status on the morning of August 24 and at this point, the storm was given the name Katrina. The tropical storm continued to move towards Florida, and became a hurricane only two hours before it made landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura, Florida on the morning of August 25.

The storm weakened over land, but it regained hurricane status about one hour after entering the Gulf of Mexico.


A tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of up to 300 mph. They can destroy large buildings, uproot trees and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards. They can also drive straw into trees. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide to 50 miles long.

The Great Tri-state Tornado

Widely considered the most devastating and powerful tornado in American history, the Great Tri-State Tornado ripped through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925. In its 219-mile-long wake it left four completely destroyed towns, and 2,000 injured.

540 people died in southern Illinois in the following towns: Gorham (37), Murphysboro (234), DeSoto (69), and West Frankfort (148). In addition, 52 people died on farms and small settlements in southern Illinois.

The counties of Jackson, Franklin, Hamilton, and White were affected within southern Illinois. The tornado developed during an afternoon thunderstorm near Ellington.

The Daulatpur-Saturia Tornado

The Daulatpur-Saturia, Bangladesh Tornado was an extremely destructive tornado that occurred in the Manikganj District, Bangladesh on April 26, 1989, and was the costliest and deadliest tornado in recorded Bangladesh history.

There is a great deal of uncertainty about the death toll, but typical estimates indicate that it killed around 1,300 people, which would make it the deadliest tornado in recorded world history. The tornado affected the cities of Daulatpur and Saturia the most, moving east through Daulatpur and eventually northeast and into Saturia. Previously, the area that the tornado hit had been in a state of drought for six months, possibly affecting the possibility of tornadic conditions.

The tornado struck at around 6:30 pm local time and moved east from the Daulatpur area into the areas of Saturia and Manikganj Sadar—a region that had been suffering from a severe drought. The storm spanned a path that was about 10 miles (16 km) long and about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. Though confined to a relatively small geographic region (like most other tornadoes) and brief in duration, it completely destroyed all buildings within an area of roughly 2.5 square miles (6 square km). Towns lay in ruins, and tens of thousands of residents were left homeless. In addition, thousands of trees were uprooted and blown away. Though the deadliest, the Saturia–Manikganj Sadar tornado was only one of numerous devastating storms to hit Bangladesh in recent history. On April 17, 1973, another tornado in the Manikganj region had killed at least 681 people.


A typhoon is a violent cyclone that occurs in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Typhoons feature heavy rains and winds that maintain speeds equal to or greater than 74 miles (119 kilometres) per hour. Similar storms that occur in other parts of the world are called tropical cyclones or hurricanes. The word typhoon comes from the Chinese term tai-fung, meaning great wind.

Typhoon seasons include the entirety of the calendar year. Most storms tend to form between May and November, although they can occur at other times of the year as well.

Typhoon Damrey aka Labuyo

Category 2 typhoon

Duration September 21 – September 27

Intensity 150 km/h (90 mph) (10-min), 955 hPa (mbar)

Due to its proximity to the Philippines, PAGASA assigned it the name Labuyo and began issuing advisories on a disturbed area of tropical weather to the east of the islands on September 19.

Damrey forced more than 170,000 people to flee their homes.

On September 20 it was classified as Tropical Depression 17W by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. On September 21, it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Damrey.

It strengthened into a typhoon on September 24. Damrey is a Cambodian word for elephant.

Typhoon Damrey (Labuyo) made landfall at Wanning, in China’s Hainan province at 2000 UTC, September 25 (0400 September 26 local time) with maximum sustained winds up to 180 km/h.

This made Damrey the strongest typhoon to strike Hainan since Typhoon Marge in September 1973.

At least 16 people are believed to have died in China, and the entire province of Hainan suffered power outages. Damrey then went on to impact Vietnam before losing tropical characteristics while a Tropical Storm. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center ceased advisories with the final one at 0900 UTC September 27 with the system 90 nautical miles (170 km) south-southwest of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Typhoon Nina (1975)

Super Typhoon Nina Category 4 super typhoon (SSHS)

Formed July 30, 1975

Dissipated August 6, 1975

Highest winds 250 km/h (155 mph) (1-minute sustained)

Lowest pressure 904 hPa (mbar)

Fatalities 175,000-200,000 direct

Damage ? $1.2 billion (1975 USD) ? $5 billion (2009 USD)

Areas affected China, Taiwan

Super Typhoon Nina was a short-lived but intense 1975 super typhoon that caused major damage and deaths in China, mainly from the collapse of the Banqiao Dam. Over 100,000 people died because of the resulting floods, making it one of the deadliest tropical cyclones recorded in history. The collapse of the dam due to heavy floods also caused a string of smaller dams to collapse, adding more damage by the typhoon.

Nina was only a tropical storm at landfall on mainland China, yet caused much more destruction near the Huai River. Setting the highest rainfall record of 1062mm/24h in Mainland China, the Banqiao Dam received a 1-in-2000 year flood conditions and collapsed the same way a string of smaller dams collapsed. In all, 62 dams failed during the disaster, causing large temporary lakes and $1.2 billion (1975 USD, $4+ billion 2005 USD) in damage.

The death toll for Typhoon Nina will most likely never be known for sure; official body counts are scarce. However, it can be safely assumed that tens of thousands of residents perished in the cataclysm and likely over 100,000 more from an epidemic resulting from the floodwaters. Nonetheless, Nina was the 2nd deadliest typhoon in recorded history in the West Pacific, behind an unnamed typhoon that hit Haiphong, Vietnam in 1881.

Nina was also the 6th deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded worldwide and was also the deadliest named cyclone ever recorded, but the exact death toll from Cyclone Nargis in 2008 is not known, and likely never will be.

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