So how does the 2004 underwater earthquake and tsunami rank in the all time list of natural disasters?
This is how it adds up:
1. Little is known of the world’s most lethal earthquake that struck the Chinese city of Shaanzi in 1556. No magnitudes are quoted, and of course no recordings exist, for the event which is said to have claimed the lives of 830,000 people.
2. Originally thought to be an earthquake, though this is unlikely from a tectonics point of view, the event in 1737 that killed some 300,000 people in Calcutta, India, is now ascribed to a typhoon, certainly making it the most expensive atmospheric event ever in terms of casualties.
3. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China, a magnitude 8 event whose toll of lives varies between the official 255,000, and an estimated 655,000. This event truly began the modern era of intense seismic hazard monitoring in China and the West.
4. The 2004 East Asia Tsunami with an unofficial total of over 150,000 people (as of 1/8/05) in 11 countries.
5. Dradatoa volcanic explosion, in Indonesia, in 1883 in which more than 50,000 people died, many of them engulfed in a tsunami.
Of course, this does not include the monetary cost or the terrible pain and suffering of so many shattered lives.