These days, natural disasters can kill and injure thousands of people. In extreme cases, they can even wipe out entire towns. Yet, humanity has a proven ability to rebuild. By and large, even when cities or regions suffer massive damage, people are able to rise up and rebuild from the ruins. Further, advanced construction techniques mean that we can now build earthquake, hurricane, and other natural disaster-resistant structures.
Take the 2010 Haiti earthquake, for example. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times, having killed as many as 300,000 people. Yet, with international aid, Haiti has largely been able to rebuild itself. Challenges remain, but Haiti will go on as a country.
For numerous ancient civilizations, major natural disasters meant the literal end of times. Cites and in some cases, even civilizations were literally wiped from the face of the Earth by natural disasters. So let’s look into some of the most catastrophic natural disasters in history.
1. Mount Vesuvius and The Destruction of Pompeii
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD goes down as one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history. The eruption also wiped out the ancient and prosperous city of Pompeii, which would remain buried under soot and rubble for more than 1,500 years.
At the time of its destruction, Pompeii is believed to have been home to about 11,000 people. The city had an advanced water system, an amphitheater, a gymnasium, and a port. In other words, it had all the trappings of the most advanced cities of its time.
Leading up to the eruption, massive earthquakes struck nearby but went ignored. Meanwhile, noxious carbon dioxide leaked from the earth, killing livestock. Still, people didn’t heed the warning signs. Then, on August 24th, Mount Vesuvius erupted, pelting Pompeii and the surrounding areas with flaming rocks, and debris. Hot magma also began to flow down the mountain side, setting off fires, and ash rained from the sky.
It’s believed that at least a few thousand citizens of Pompeii survived the initial eruption. The next day, however, the volcano erupted again. This time, the more powerful blast killed everyone near instantly, and a mix of ash and rain would form a sort of concrete that preserved much of the city and its deceased inhabitants.
The nearby town of Herculaneum was also destroyed in a mudslide. Numerous ships at sea were lost, and other local villages were destroyed. The city of Pompeii would be lost for hundreds of years but now the excavated city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sadly, Mount Vesuvius might one day find itself on lists for the deadliest modern natural disasters. There are currently more people living near Mount Vesuvius than any other still active volcano. The volcano will almost certainly erupt again, but no one knows when. Hopefully, advanced warning and evacuation methods will reduce casualties.