The world's deadliest storms on record



The world's deadliest storms on record

storm clouds lightning
Getty Images

As the effects of climate change continue to gain increasing prevalence on political and business agendas, new research highlighting the world's most deadly has been released in a bid to prompt further preventative action.

In the first study of its kind, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has assessed the death tolls of all major tropical cyclones, tornadoes, lightning and hailstorms to have occurred since 1873, when records began, to identify those which resulted in the greatest loss of life.

Those regions to have been worst hit over the past 150 years include Africa and Asia-Pacific, where death tolls are estimated to have reached as high as 500,000 in one event, though the effects of extreme weather have been undiscriminating to all regions.

The WMO's secretary-general Petteri Taalas said he hopes the research will help global decisions makers to better understand how to limit the effects of extreme weather in future.

"Extreme weather causes serious destruction and major loss of life. That is one of the reasons behind the WMO's efforts to improve early warnings of multiple hazards and impact-based forecasting, and to learn lessons gleaned from historical disasters to prevent future ones."

  • Deadliest tropical cyclone

    Bangladesh's notorious 'Great Bhola Cyclone' is thought to have claimed the greatest number of lives of any cyclone on record when it surged across the shores of the Bay of Bengal on 12-13 November 1970.

    Though the precise death toll is difficult to confirm given the storm's magnitude, it is estimated that anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 lives were claimed as a result of the storm that formed over the Bay of Bengal.

    The storm devastated many of the offshore islands in the Bay, destroying crops and wiping out villages.

    At its peak, the winds amassed by the storm hit 185 km/h (115 mph).

    Bangladeshi city deals with the aftermath of a cyclone
    AFP | Getty Images
  • Deadliest tornado

    Bangladesh also fell victim to the world's deadliest tornado in 1989, when extreme winds hit the Manikganj district in the center of the country on April 26.

    The violent storm, which had a track approximately a mile wide, purportedly killed 1,300 people and injured 12,000 others.

    The tornado is also considered the world's most costly after it left 80,000 people homeless in the ruined cities of Daulatpur and Saturia.

    Bangladeshi men, women and children walk in the ruins of their city on April 30, 1989, in Saturia
    David L. Nelson | AFP | Getty Images
  • Deadliest indirect lightning strike

    Just under 500 dead bodies were received by hospitals in the Dronka region of Egypt in November 1994 when a severe thunderstorm resulted in damage and flash flooding.

    A flash of lightning caused three oil storage tanks, each holding approximately 5,000 tons of aircraft or diesel fuel, to collapse over a nearby railway line as floodwaters built up behind it. The fuel caught fire from the lightning strike and the floodwaters swept the blazing fuel into the village.

    Lightning strikes pylons as cars streak past
    David McNew | Getty Images
  • Deadliest direct lightning strike

    A hut in Manica Tribal Trust Lands in eastern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) is thought to have been the most severely impacted by a direct lightning strike.

    21 people were killed when lightning struck the mud-brick hut on 23 December 1975.

    To this day, nearly 90 percent of sub-Saharan buildings, especially homes, are not lightning safe. In particular, schools and homes tend to be mud-brick with thatch or sheet metal roofs held down by rocks.

    Mitchell Krog | Barcroft USA | Getty Images
  • Deadliest hailstorm

    Hailstones the size of 'goose eggs and oranges and cricket balls' pummelled the city of Moradabad in northern India on 30 April 1888, according to eyewitness accounts.

    The storm killed as many as 246 people and approximately 1,600 livestock.

    In some places, the hailstones accumulated up to 2 feet in height.

    Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.

    A hailstorm hits open land
    Dan Kitwood | Getty Images