2010-2019: Natural Disasters That Rocked The World This Decade

From floods to earthquakes, fires to hurricanes, Mother Nature has shown her full force in the past 10 years.

Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives, and millions have been displaced around the world in the face of nature's fury.

Here in Australia, we've also seen our fair share of natural disasters devastate communities in every state and sadly as we enter a new decade, a fire emergency is still ravaging parts of the country.

Catastrophic bushfires are continuing to wreak havoc across NSW, Victoria and South Australia, as well as in parts of Queensland and Western Australia.

NSW RFS crews fight the Gospers Mountain Fire at Bilpin. Image: AAP

In what's repeatedly been deemed 'unprecedented' conditions, the fires have destroyed thousands of homes across the country, wiped out entire towns and sadly claimed a number of lives.

They've also been strengthened by an unrelenting heatwave that has seen temperature records tumble repeatedly in the first month of Summer alone.



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The fires have also sparked dozens of severe health warnings for NSW with heavy smoke plaguing large parts of the state including Sydney for weeks on end.

The fire emergency is continuing to threaten homes and lives and divided communities as it becomes a part of the political agenda including on volunteer pay, New Years' Eve celebrations and funding.

As Australia continues to battle with the ongoing emergency, here is a look back at other major natural disasters that devastated communities around the world in the last decade.


In just the first few days of the decade, on the afternoon of January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the small Caribbean country of Haiti.

For weeks following the devastation of the initial quake, a series of aftershocks continued to rock the island nation.

People look for survivors following the quake. Image: Getty

The death toll was estimated to be between 250,000-300,000 people, with just as many injured.

The quake also left around five million in total displaced, following years of widespread poverty and inequality.

Camps set up among ruined houses in Port-au-Prince. Image: Getty

The death toll in Haiti stands as the worst natural disaster in terms of casualties in the past decade, and among the highest death tolls of all time.


On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake shook the eastern side of Japan -- the most powerful to ever hit the country.

Image: Getty

The intensity of the quake triggered a devastating tsunami, with tidal waves reaching as high as 10 metres in some places.

It ranks as one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit the nation, with more than 20,000 people killed and at least half a million evacuated.

Image: Getty

The nation, already dealing with the aftermath of the quake and tsunami, was also faced with the fear of a nuclear emergency at the Fukushima power plant after its reactors were severely damaged.

The Radiation Waste Treatment Facility at the Fukushima Prefecture. Image: Getty


More than 180 people were killed in February 2011 when a magnitude 6.2 quake shook Christchurch -- the country's second-biggest city.

Hitting during the lunchtime peak in the city, just before 1 pm on February 22, many people were out and about in the city's centre. Hundreds of buildings collapsed, while thousands more were damaged -- some beyond repair.

Hundreds of aftershocks were felt for weeks afterward, hampering recovery and cleanup efforts.

Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Christchurch. Image: Getty

NZ Prime Minister John Key said it "may well be New Zealand's darkest day". Australian governments, state and federal, pledged millions of dollars to relief funds, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard promising "to do everything we can to work with our New Zealand family".


At home, widespread flooding devastated thousands across Queensland in the summer of 2010-11. Heavy rain fell for months across several parts of the state, with the deluge busting river banks. A University of Queensland study claimed "nearly 75 percent of Queensland was affected by some major flooding" during November 2010 and February 2011.

Sadly, the floods claimed the lives of 35 people.

Image: AAP

Entire streets were washed away, with tens of thousands of homes left inundated with water.

The cleanup took years, with residents struggling to recover.

Image: AAP

This month, almost nine years after the floods, residents won a historic class-action that found the Queensland Government was partially responsible for the flood, owing to related dam work.

Exhausted residents who first filed the suit five years ago celebrated when the decision was handed down, with the state government yet to reveal whether it will appeal the decision.

Image: AAP

The payout could be in the hundreds of millions.


Hurricane Sandy was responsible for close to 150 deaths across the northeast of the US, Canada, and the Caribbean, after it hit communities in the final weeks of October 2012.

The hurricane first made landfall in Jamaica, followed by Cuba, Haiti and The Bahamas, before making landfall in the US.

Image: Getty

Thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed, and millions of people were left without power and gas for weeks.

The damage bill from the storm, which affected more than 24 states, was estimated at more than US$70 billion.

It's considered the second-costliest storm, after only Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to America's Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Image: Getty

Outside of the US, 2012 saw several other countries hit by huge natural disasters, including deadly earthquakes in Italy and the Middle East and a spate of monsoonal floods across Asia.

The deadliest natural disaster of 2012 is considered to be Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines, which killed more than 1000 people and displaced nearly two million when it struck the nation's south in December.

Devastation following Typhoon Bopha in 2012. Image: Getty


A Philippines typhoon was also responsible for the most deaths of any natural disaster in 2013.

Typhoon Haiyan is believed to have killed around 6000 people and displaced more than three million, with winds that reached close to 315 kilometres per hour.

It's considered the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall.

Typhoon Haiyan 2013. Image: Getty

2013 was another year of widespread natural disasters, including the deadly 6.6 magnitude Lushan earthquake which hit China in April, a February earthquake in the Solomon Islands, and the Oklahoma tornado in May which killed dozens.

Rows of destroyed homes following the 2013 tornado in Oklahoma. Image: Getty

According to The Guardian, natural disasters displaced more people than wars in 2014.


More than 600 people were killed when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck in China's southwest province of Yunnan in August 2014.

Thousands of buildings were ruined in the quake, which also triggered landslides, worsened by heavy rains that further devastated the region.

Image: Getty

An 8.2 magnitude quake also struck Chile earlier in 2014 in April, while floods devastated communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Pakistan, and the Solomon Islands.


Nepal was left devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 8000 people in April 2015.

Nepal earthquake in 2015. Image: Getty

Hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings, including schools, were destroyed, and countless people were left without homes.

Powerful aftershocks were felt across the country for weeks following the initial quake.

The earthquake also triggered a string of avalanches in the Himalayas, with more than 20 killed and scores more trapped or injured on Mount Everest.

Rescuers use a makeshift stretcher to carry an injured person at Everest Base Camp. Image: Getty


On a Saturday evening in April of 2016, Ecuador was shaken by a 7.8 magnitude quake that saw buildings turn to rubble in an instant.

At least 670 people lost their lives in the disaster, with more than 6000 injured.

Close to 700 people lost their lives in the Ecuador quake. Image: Getty

Rescue efforts were reportedly hampered by lack of water, destroyed roads and poor communication lines.

Some of the worst-hit areas were popular tourist regions within the South American nation.


At its peak, Hurricane Maria was recorded as a category 5 storm as it made landfall in Dominica and Puerto Rico.

More than 3000 people lost their lives as a result of the storm, which at times reached speeds of up to 282km/h.

Flood water in Catano town after Hurricane Maria. Image: Getty

The recovery effort became a major political affair, with local authorities pleading with the US Congress and President Donald Trump to help the affected regions, which are home to more than three million Americans.

Puerto Rico's governor at the time urged Congress to approve an aid relief package, and Trump was criticised for not taking any action or making a significant acknowledgment of the disaster until almost a week after the hurricane made landfall.

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In July 2018 a series of fires swept through Greece, destroying the town of Mati, east of Athens. It was one of the worst natural disasters in living memory for the European nation.

Greek firefighters battle the wildfire. Image: Getty

At least 83 people were killed in the fires, which made headlines globally as desperate relatives fronted cameras to plead for information for those still missing.

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Greek authorities launched an investigation into whether arson was at the root of the fires which destroyed around 500 homes.

Not long after, the U.S. state of California began experiencing its own fire emergency. While the west coast state has lived through wildfires in the past, last year at least 88 people were killed in what became the deadliest blazes in the state's history, between July and August.

Image: CBS News.

At its worst, more than 1000 people were unaccounted for. The towns of Paradise, Malibu, Magalia, Concow and other parts of the state near Los Angeles were the worst affected.

The death toll was recorded as more than 100, with at least 10,000 structures also destroyed in the blazes.



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Heart-wrenching stories of groups of people being discovered together after burning to death, and families fleeing from the horror flames, emerged as firefighters worked to contain more than 8000 fires that were burning across the state.


In August 2018, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Lombok.

The disaster left at least 550 people dead, and more than 300,000 displaced.

Image: Reuters

At least 13,000 houses and buildings were also destroyed, with rescue and recovery operations hampered by loss of power and communication lines.


Australia has survived through many droughts in its history, but last year NSW made international headlines when 100 percent of the state was declared drought-affected.

Nearly 60 percent of Queensland was also suffering from the 'big dry', in what has been described by Australian farmers as the worst drought in more than a century.

Image: Getty Images.

Heartbreaking stories of dying cattle, farmers struggling to feed their families and deteriorating mental health emerged in droves.  While there was some sporadic rainfall, meteorologists said much more than occasional rain was needed to break the relentless drought.


More than 80,000 fires broke out across Brazil this year, with nearly half of those in the Amazon rainforest.

Aerial view of smoke from a fire billowing from the Amazon rainforest. Image:  Getty

The wildfires in the Amazon were so large that the smoke plumes could be seen from space.

The fires in the Amazon gained global attention as thousands shared images of the devastating blaze online, claiming not enough attention was being given to the natural disaster.



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It led to political fallout in Brazil, with the nation's president refusing to accept donations from G7 leaders before bizarrely later blaming the fires on Hollywood actor Leonardo Dicaprio.


In NSW, bushfires have raged for months. Lives have been lost and nearly 900 homes have been destroyed, as the state faces its worst fire season ever recorded, less than a month into the start of summer.

NSW Rural Fire Service crews protect properties near Mangrove Mountain. Image: AAP

Fierce blazes have also devastated Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and more in recent months, with resources stretched to the brink responding to hundreds of fires, and millions of hectares of land burnt nationwide.

Across the country, at least eight people are dead, including firefighters and residents who died protecting their homes.

Helicopters dump water on bushfires as they approach homes located on the outskirts of the town of Bargo. Image: Getty

More than 100 homes in South Australia have been lost, while hundreds in Victoria have been destroyed.

Thousands of native wildlife have also been wiped out with wildlife rescuers and hospitals also stretched to the limit taking care of sick or injured animals impacted by the blazes.

A photo shows a firefighter standing aside a koala, as a bushfire rages ahead. Image: Facebook / Eden Hills Country Fire Service

Bushfire smoke has blanketed many parts of the country for weeks, making some people sick and even forcing the cancellation of a Big Bash cricket match.

As the thick smoke blanketed Sydney for weeks on end, residents rushed out to buy face masks and air purifiers, while the smoke also made its way to populated areas of Canberra and Victoria.

Smoke haze is seen over Sydney Harbour. Image: Getty

With summer only just beginning, Australia is bracing for further bushfire danger in months to come.