From Kerala floods to California wildfires, acts of nature took a heavy toll in 2018

A slew of natural disasters left a trail of destruction across the world this year. From earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to floods and wildfires, they took the lives of thousands, besides also leaving hundreds of thousands injured and displaced and causing large-scale destruction of property. As the clock runs down on 2018, here's a look back at the natural disasters that wreaked havoc:

A man salvages possessions from the ruins of his house in Sissano 20 July in the remote NW of Papua New Guinea. Rescue workers believe that up to 3,000 people were swept to their deaths when three giant tidal waves struck 17 July and devastated seven coastal towns. AFP

Papua New Guinea Earthquake

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea in February. The natural disaster also triggered a major aftershock and led to several landslides. Close to half a million people were affected by the disaster which left 145 persons dead.

(Photos | AFP)

The recovery effort was slow as aid workers were left to grapple with blocked roads and power outages as they sought to reach remote villages in the Pacific nation's mountainous interior.

An Indonesian trooper stands beside a toppled mosque as recovery efforts continue at the earthquake-hit Balaroa neighborhood in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Oct. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Indonesia Earthquakes and Tsunami

The holiday island of Lombok was hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in August this year. Reports say the earthquake was preceded with a 6.4 magnitude quake of late July, and the surrounding areas were hit by a number of aftershocks. In all, more than 550 people were killed.

A resident inspects a mosque damaged by an earthquake in North Lombok, Indonesia, on Aug. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

If this wasn't enough, there was yet another 7.5 magnitude earthquake and a subsequent 20-feet tsunami which hit the Sulawesi island in late September and brought widespread devastation, leaving over 2,200 dead and rendering over 330,000 people homeless.

Lone survivor of Indonesian Band, 'Seventeen' which got washed away as it played. Dramatic footage posted online showed fans clapping and cheering before the wave smashes into the concert, hurling band members from the stage and slamming into the audience, killing four persons. The lead singer of the band, however, survived. (Photo | AP)
  • As of December 25, 2018, Indonesia was hit by yet another tsunami triggered by a volcano.
  • The disaster which struck the island country was particularly cruel as it hit on a busy holiday weekend when many locals were enjoying the warm night breeze on the beach under a full moon.
  • The tsunami death toll has reached 429, with 128 missing and over 1,400 injured.

Kerala Floods

Deviyar Dam flooded after heavy rains at Adimali in Idukki, Kerala on 9th August 2018. (Express photo/ A Sanesh)

This August, God's Own Country, faced what is said to be "worst floods in a century". The turmoil brought back collective memories of June 1924 referred to as the "Great Flood of 99".

A flood affected house near Eloor in Kochi, Kerala. (Express photo/ Albin Mathew)

Over 480 people were killed in the floods which were triggered by the monsoons. The state government said that many victims died after being crushed by debris which was caused by landslides.

The state which received a cumulative rainfall of 771 mm over a period of 20 days plunged into a state of despair as it picked up the pieces, with the estimated losses running into crores.

One month later, the state was left in utter distress with state government left to pick pieces after the floods triggered by continuous rains. Needless to say, every sector was left to fight its own battles. From tourism to handloom, almost every sector has a long route to recovery.

  • The state over a period of 20 days received rainfall of 771 mm.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department declared that the rainfall intensity should decline. By the time, the water subsided, there were 10,28,073 people in over 3000 relief camps.
  • In terms of property destruction, 11,000 houses and 46,000 hectares of crops were destroyed. [TIMELINE OF KERALA FLOODS]
Rescue workers search in El Rodeo, one of the hamlets in the disaster area near the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire," in Escuintla, Guatemala, on June 5, 2018.

Guatemala Volcano Eruption

One of Central America's most active volcanos erupted in fiery explosions of ash and molten rocks in June this year. Volcan de Fuego, Spanish for "volcano of fire," left hundreds dead and several missing.

A body is covered in volcanic ash spewed by the Volcan de Fuego, or "Volcano of Fire," in Escuintla, Guatemala, on June 4, 2018.
  • In November, the authorities declared a red alert and evacuated close to 4,000 people after the volcano erupted for the fifth time.
  • This came five months after almost 200 people were buried by volcanic ash and mud during a violent eruption in June.
  • That eruption generated pyroclastic flows - fast-moving mixtures of very hot gas and volcanic matter - which descended down the slopes, engulfing communities such as El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes.
In this Nov. 19, 2018 photo taken with a long exposure, the Volcano of Fire spews lava from its crater in Antigua, Guatemala, prompting evacuations from nearby towns. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

According to some news reports, many victims were found near their homes, indicating that they were in no position to escape. Others who did manage to flee and save themselves are still left to search for their families. The villages worst affected were San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo. Aerial photographs show how they were covered by pyroclastic flow which rushed down the slopes of the volcano.

Kodagu Floods in Karnataka

Fresh landslides occurred in Monnangeri village in Madiker. (Express photo)

Termed as a "man-made disaster waiting to happen" by geologists, the hilly terrain of Karnataka was lashed by torrential downpours leading to landslides claiming the lives of close to 20 people in August. The initial assessment of the losses by the Karnataka government was anywhere up to Rs 2,500 crore.

Landslides and floods have claimed many lives and damaged over thousands of houses in Kodagu district, Karnataka. (Express photo)

Experts have largely blamed the disaster on unplanned development projects and tree felling which loosened the soil and left the region susceptible to flash floods and landslides.

Pakistan & Japan heat waves

The maximum temperature in May hovered between 41 and 44 degree Celsius in May. (Screengrab | Accuweather)
The sudden rise in temperature confined locals to their homes. (Photo | AFP)

At least 65 people from the ages of six to 78 died of heatstroke in Karachi over a period of three days during Ramzan this year amid soaring temperatures.

  • In July, the same number of people died in Japan in a heatwave over a period of one week.
  • A little over 22,000 people had to be hospitalised, with the state weather agency classifying the unprecedented levels of heat as a "natural disaster."
More than dozen cities which saw a temperature of over 41 degree Celsius has raised some concerns about the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. (Photo | AFP)

California Wildfires

A fireman witnesses a home burning as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise in California. The widespread destruction caused by the three major blazes has increased the insurance claims up to 9 billion USD. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
  • Three ferocious wildfires -- The Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire -- wreaked havoc across California, claiming 88 lives and causing large-scale destruction.
  • As hundreds of locals were forced to flee their homes, strong winds continued to fan the flames.
Scottish actor Gerard Butler shares an image of his Malibu property ravaged in California fire.

Several celebrities, including Scottish actor Gerard Butler and pop singer Miley Cyrus, also lost their homes in the fires. A heartbroken Butler took to Instagram and shared images of his fire-ravaged Malibu property.

The wildfires also courted controversy after US president Donald Trump blamed poor forest management for the disaster.

  • The Camp Fire was the deadliest, according to media reports.
  • Though the cause of the disaster is still under investigation, speculation is rife that the blaze was sparked off by a power company in an area afflicted by long-running drought. Strong winds helped the blaze spread quickly.

Japan floods

Rescuers according to media reports had a hard time digging up bodies in what seemed to be the 'worst floods in 36 years' (Photo | AFP)
  • Starting late June through mid-July 2018, continuous heavy downpours in the southwestern region of Japan resulted in widespread devastating floods and mudflows.
  • According to media reports, 225 people were confirmed dead across 15 prefectures with a further 13 people reported missing.
  • Over 8 million people were advised to evacuate. The torrential rain which lasted for ten days triggered landslides and flash flooding, with water levels reaching 16 ft in the worst-hit areas.
  • The rain-related deaths were primarily because of mudslides, landslides and vehicles swept away by the floodwater.
Scores of trucks damaged in cyclone Titli on National Highway 16 near Andhra Odisha border. (Express photo/ Biswanath Swain)

Cyclones Gaja, Titli & Phethai

  • Cyclone Gaja devastated Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry and also some areas of the neighbouring state of Kerala in mid-November.
  • The cyclonic storm, which caused wind speeds to surge to 120 kmph, claimed at least 45 lives and caused extensive damage to houses, crops, and infrastructure.
Velankanni church in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu bore the brunt of cyclone Gaja. (Express photo/ K Venkatesh)
  • The Tamil Nadu government has estimated that the cyclone uprooted over 170,000 trees and damaged over 1 lakh houses, with farmers left to witness acres of their coconut farms and banana plantations ruined.
  • The heavy-impact cyclone also damaged electricity transformers and snapped power lines, cutting off electricity in several districts.
A month later, Cyclone Phethai made landfall in Kakinada district of Andhra Pradesh, displacing thousands of people. At least two people were confirmed dead in the disaster.
  • The electricity department has suffered a loss of Rs 1.30 crore in East Godavari alone due to cyclone Phethai.
  • The fisheries department has lost Rs 33.90 lakh due to cyclone Phethai
  • The value of the green chilly has increased so much that vendors sold only 250 gm to every customer.
  • Cyclone Titli, which the IMD called a 'rarest of rare' occurrence, lashed Odisha in October, killing at least 61 people, with the Gajapati district being the worst-hit region.
  • As the state was left in a state of despair, there were several allegations of irregularities when it came to relief distribution.
  • Several Sompeta mandal farmers got compensation for losing cashew plants, when they had actually lost coconut trees Compensation for coconut trees is three times higher than for cashew trees. [READ HERE]
  • Some Ichchapuram mandal people had got compensation in lakhs, although they did not own any land in their names.
  • Farmers in Palasa managed to get huge compensation for not so huge cattle loss


Photo credits: AP, AFP, Express Photo Service

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