The Most Expensive Disasters of All Time

The Tohuku earthquake in tsunami in Japan is among the world's most expensive disasters to ever occur.
The Tohuku earthquake in tsunami in Japan is among the world's most expensive disasters to ever occur.

A disaster is a natural or human-made occurrence that causes a disruption of events in a certain community or society. Disasters can cause extensive damage to property, the environment, the economic stability of a region, and they can lead to the loss of lives. In the event of disasters, the affected communities are left in a vulnerable position as they seek ways to reconstruct their lives and resume a sense of normalcy. Reconstruction involves the use of funds for relocation, rebuilding of damaged infrastructure as well as food purchases. Some of the world's most expensive disasters are included below.

The Most Expensive Disasters of All Time

Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

The Tohoku earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The 9.0-9.1 magnitude earthquake was the strongest in Japan. It also triggered a tsunami with very high waves of about 133ft. The earthquake and tsunami resulted in massive destructions of buildings, roads, and railways in the affected area. There were fires, nuclear accidents, displacement of the Pacific plate by about 20 metres, and more than 15,000 deaths, 6,152 injuries, and 2,562 missing persons. Efforts to clean up the mess left by the earthquake and tsunami have consumed about $300 billion making it the most expensive disaster in the world.

Sichuan Earthquake

The Sichuan earthquake cost clean up was $148 billion making it the second most expensive disaster in the world. The Sichuan earthquake of an 8.1 magnitude struck China’s Sichuan province on May 12th, 2008. The earthquake resulted in extensive damage to buildings, infrastructure, and landslides. The earthquake is one of the deadliest in history with more than 80,000 deaths, 374,643 injuries and 18,392 missing persons.

Great Hanshin Earthquake

The total economic cost after the Great Hanshin earthquake of January 17, 1995, was $103 billion making it one of the costliest earthquakes in 20th century Japan. The earthquake, also known as the Kobe earthquake, had a magnitude of 6.9 and caused close to $200 billion in damages. Deaths recorded from the earthquake totaled about 6,434, there were about 43,792 injuries and the displacement of more than 300,000 casualties. Most of the victims were from the Kobe region of the country.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, 2010 and it has proved to be one of the most expensive disasters to manage. About $100 billion was spent cleaning the oil leak. The oil spill involved 4.9 million barrels of oil and affected an area of up to 68,000 square miles. 11 people died from the accident, and 17 were injured. The spill caused extensive damage to the marine ecosystem including the death of marine animals. Other marine animals developed deformities due to the oil spill. The accident is largely blamed on the inefficiency of the BP Company.

Other expensive disasters and Disaster management

Other disasters that have consumed billions of dollars to fix include Hurricane Katrina, Thailand floods of 2011, Christchurch earthquake of New Zealand, Hurricane Ike, Yangtze river floods, Hurricane Andrew, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Northridge earthquake and the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. Though some of the disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis cannot be controlled, governments can develop disaster management programs to reduce the impact of these occurrences. Such measures include identification and evaluation of risks and risk areas and developing response mechanisms for significant risks. Human instigated disasters can be reduced through careful monitoring and use of technology, development of infrastructure and establishing robust security systems.

The Most Expensive Disasters of All Time

RankDisaster LocationYearCost of cleanup effort (USD, billions)
1Tohoku earthquake and tsunamiJapan2011300
2Sichuan EarthquakeChina2008148
3Great Hanshin earthquakeJapan1995103
4Deepwater Horizon oil spillUnited States2010100
5Hurricane KatrinaUnited States200545
6Thailand floodsThailand201146
7Christchurch earthquakeNew Zealand201140
8Hurricane IkeUnited States200830
9Yangzte River floodsChina199826
10Hurricane AndrewUnited States199225
119/11 terrorist attacksUnited States200121
12Northridge earthquakeUnited States199420
13Chernobyl disasterUkraine198615
14Indian Ocean tsunamia and earthquakeMultinational200415
15Armero tragedyColombia19857
162013 Alberta floodsCanada20135
17Exxon Valdez oil spillUnited States19893
18Cedar FireUnited States20032
19AZF chemical plant explosionFrance20012
20Slave Lake wildfireCanada20112

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