World

Photos show 10 of the worst weather disasters

From Hurricane Sandy to sandstorms in China, following is a look at 10 of the worst weather-related disasters of the past 20 years.

Expect more weather-related disasters in the coming years, UN report says

A man carries his son through the haze of a forest fire in Palembang, on the island of Sumatra, in October. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty)

A recent United Nations report points to a dramatic rise in the intensity and frequency of weather-related disasters like heat waves, droughts and hurricanes and the hardest-hit countries — the U.S., China, India, Philippines and Indonesia — should prepare for more. 

Following is a look at 10 of the worst weather-related disasters in the past 20 years.

Indonesia's peat fires

Haze from Indonesia's massive wild fires (an annual problem caused by the illegal burning of forest and peat lands) are especially bad this year thanks to El Nino. Neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, downwind from the choking haze, have offered to help the Indonesian government curb the practice which is causing record pollution levels across Southeast Asia.  

A woman takes a smokey selfie in Singapore in September. Haze from agricultural fires gone wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is blowing far and wide across Southeast Asia. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

2015 hottest year ever, until next year

Summer temperatures hit record levels in Europe once again this year, beating the record set last summer. Globally, 2015 went into the record books as the hottest year ever, thanks to El Nino, and 2016 will be even hotter, according to a recently released World Meteorological Organization report. 

People cool off in Trocadero Square, in front of the Eiffel Tower, as hot summer day as record high temperatures grip Paris. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

More and hotter heat waves

In 2003, some 70,000 heat-related deaths were reported across Europe, with nearly 15,000 in France alone. Globally, the year 2002 was particularly harsh, according to the UN report, with an oppressive heat wave sending the temperature in Indian cities like Allahabad, pictured below, to 46 C and above for days on end, resulting in dozens of heat-related deaths.

An Indian child cools off under a roadside tap in Allahabad. (Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty)

Strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded

Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it was known in Philippines, swept across the South Pacific with devastating effect in November 2013 leaving thousands dead and millions more homeless and exposed to disease. Storms like Haiyan, one of the deadliest in modern history, are expected to increase in frequency, according to the UN weather disasters report.

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest ever recorded, sparked an international humanitarian effort when it flattened large swaths of the central Philippines, swamping coastal areas with a massive storm surge. Here, a boy waits for help in Palo on Nov. 19, 2013.
Haiyan survivors desperate to catch a flight crowded the hard-hit Tacloban airport in the days following the disaster. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
 

Sandstorms blanket Beijing

China also experienced a dramatic rise in the number of weather-related disasters in the past 20 years. Among the more persistent problems are cyclonic spring winds that seasonally stir up huge quantities of sand, affecting the air quality for millions of people in Beijing and other major cities. The worst sandstorm ever recorded hit the Chinese capital in 2002. 

A Chinese tourist wearing the panda mask takes in the hazy sites in Tiananmen Square during the sandstorm in Beijing in 2013. (Feng Li/Getty)

In Australia, drought is the new normal

Australia, already the world's most arid continent, is hoping a pioneering irrigation scheme will pass the test that is El Nino — the cyclical warming of Pacific sea-surface temperatures that makes the land Down Under even hotter. Drought and other extreme weather affects millions of people across the world, and experts warn that the intensifying weather pattern this year could emerge as one of the strongest on record.

Australia hopes a pioneering irrigation scheme will weather the test of El Nino. (David Gray/Reuters)

Expect more disasters in the U.S., too

California's historic, years-long drought contributed to one of the state's worst forest fire seasons on record this year. Thousands of people were evacuated from dozens of communities as windblown flames consumed millions of hectares of water-starved forests, ranch lands, vineyards and homes. 

A burnt out trucks sits among the scorched landscape left after a wildfire swept through a section of the Sequoia National Forest, in California, this summer. (Max Whittaker/Reuters)

Hurricane Sandy worst in years

Hurricane Sandy, which devastated large sections of the U.S. Atlantic coast in 2012, continues to rack up a damage bill in excess of $75 billion US. It's the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina, which killed nearly 2,000 people, in 2005. 

The Seaside Heights roller coaster, which became a symbol of Sandy's fury after the 2012 disaster, is still floating off the New Jersey coast. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)
A sea of yellow cabs sit in a flooded lot in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. U.S. President Barack Obama declared Sandy a 'major disaster' for large areas of the U.S. east coast, including New York City, with widespread power outages and significant flooding. (Michael Bocchieri/Getty)

Isaac slams Gulf Coast same year as Sandy

Before Sandy struck in 2012, and nearly seven years to the hour after the Katrina disaster, Hurricane Isaac made landfall in Louisiana, forcing evacuations and knocking out power to over 100,000 homes.

(Sgt. Rashawn D. Price/U.S. Army/Reuters)

UN: More bad weather in the forecast

Since 1995, weather disasters have: 

  • Killed 606,000 people.
  • Left 4.1 billion people injured, homeless or in need of aid.
  • Accounted for 90 per cent of all disasters worldwide.

Cylone Nargis a 'mega-disaster'

One of the deadliest disasters in the past decade, according to the UN report, was Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 in Burma in 2008. 

Strong wind and heavy rain topple electric poles and blow away roofs as Cyclone Nargis tears through Rangoon on May 3, 2008. (Reuters)
In the weeks and months following the deadly disaster, thousands of bodies were buried in mass graves, like this one in the Irrawady delta village of Tha Ma Thukha, to combat the spread of waterborne diseases. (Paula Bronstein/Getty)

The release of the UN report comes a week before world leaders gather in Paris for the COP21 conference to discuss plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions and prevent world temperatures rising.

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