This was the year the Earth struck back.

Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed more than a quarter of a million people in 2010 — the deadliest year for natural disasters in more than a generation.

More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past 40 years combined.


Lorendo Gines surveys the damage to his house on Oct. 20, 2010, after typhoon Megi barrelled over the northeastern Philippines. Experts say 2010 was the worst year for deaths caused by natural disasters in more than a generation. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

Swiss insurance company Re reports that through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters, compared with 15,000 in 2009.

By comparison, the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000.  

Scientists and disaster experts say we only have ourselves to blame. They say poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need to be.

More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities, meaning when the ground shakes, a river breaches, or a tropical cyclone hits, more people die.

Scientists say Earth's climate is also changing as a result of man-made climate change, bringing more extreme weather, such as heat waves and flooding.

That is why those who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year.

Debarati Guha Sapir of the World Health Organization said the planet often strikes back as a result of bad decision-making by people.