When man and the elements collide, Mother Nature always comes out on top. When Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. last week, she left an enormous amount of destruction and debt in her wake. Although our weather technology has advanced enough to give us adequate warnings and projections about natural disasters, nothing can accurately predict how many lives a severe storm or earthquake will take or how much financial ruin these events will cause.
Were accustomed to watching the traumatic events of a natural disaster unfold on CNN and other news outlets, but seeing the numbers in print sends a shock to your gut. Heres a list of historys five most expensive storms.
- Northridge Earthquake. The Northridge earthquake caused a scene of devastation that horror director Wes Craven couldnt have hoped to approximate when he filmed his very own earthquake shots for New Nightmare days earlier. Like a night terror, the earthquake struck Southern California hard and fast on January 17, 1994, waking many people in the middle of the night. The 6.7 magnitude quake hit at 4:31 a.m., damaging 40,000 buildings in the Los Angeles area and devastating the San Fernando Valley. In the end, the calamity took 61 lives and cost $67 billion.
- Sichuan Earthquake. The 7.9 magnitude Sichuan earthquake changed life in China forever. The Chinese government had allowed 7,000 shoddy schoolrooms to be built in the Sichuan area. When these schoolrooms collapsed on May 12, 2008, many childrens lives were lost. During a time when the country needed to feel secure with their leadership, the Chinese peoples faith in their government faltered due to cost-cutting measures that directly contributed to the massive death toll. In total, the Sichuan earthquake took 84,000 lives and cost China $89 billion.
- Hurricane Katrina. On August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina smacked the U.S. across the face and reminded us that Mother Nature will hit hard whether were ready or not. Despite the governments delayed and ambivalent response to the tragedy, Americans came together and took on the Big Easys trauma with an abundance of compassion and a sense of urgency. This massive category 5 hurricane took 1,322 lives and cost $144 billion.
- The Great Hanshin Earthquake. The 7.2 magnitude Great Hanshin earthquake, which occurred on January 17, 1995, wreaked havoc on the northern end of the Japanese Island Awaji, hitting the Hy?go prefecture and its capital Kobe the hardest. After the quake, the Japanese government woke up its disaster prevention authorities and took measures to stabilize bridges and keep buildings from collapsing. By the time the rubble settled, the Great Hanshin earthquake had taken 6,430 lives and had caused $148 billion in economic damage.
- The T?hoku Earthquake and TsunamiMarch 11, 2011. Just sixteen years after the Great Hanshin earthquake, Japan endured yet another monumental disaster. The T?hoku earthquake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, and the tsunami it triggered caused severe structural damages, fires, and nuclear meltdowns. The quake struck so hard that it moved Honshu, the main island of Japan, eight feet and changed the axial tilt of earth by somewhere between 10 and 25 centimeters. This record-breaking natural disaster took 15,480 lives and cost $210 billion.
As of October 31, Superstorm Sandy has claimed 59 lives, and the count will continue to rise. Current projections estimate that the storm will cost over $50 billion. While theres no way of saying for certain how Superstorm Sandy will stack up against these five other catastrophes, shes already made an indelible impression on people in the U.S.