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How the Category 5 Hurricane Irma compares to some of the world’s deadliest storms

Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes but it may not be the deadliest of them all. 26 of the 35 deadliest storms in world history originated in the Bay of Bengal.

environment Updated: Sep 08, 2017 15:27 IST
HT Correspondent
View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of Saint Martin island, in the Caribbean.
View of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of Saint Martin island, in the Caribbean.(Netherlands govt handout via Reuters Photo)

Florida braced for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma on Friday after the Category 5 storm pounded the Caribbean, shredding homes and weather records and leaving at least 14 people dead before hurtling towards the United States.

Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever with winds of 285 kph (kilometres per hour) The US National Hurricane Centre classified hurricanes by their wind speeds, and anything above 250 kph qualifies as a Category 5 hurricane.

However, high wind speeds don’t necessarily translate into maximum destruction. Of 35 deadliest storms in modern history -- in which more than 5000 have been killed -- 26 originated in the Bay of Bengal.

Cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes refer to the same weather phenomena, the naming changes with the region, in India these storms are called cyclones:

Here’s a look at some of the deadliest storms in modern history: 

Bhola Cyclone, 1970

This cyclone is perhaps one of the worst natural disasters recorded in recent history, with an estimated death toll running into 3-5 lakh. The storm hit erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal in November 1970. The Bhola cyclone reached a strength equal to that of a Category 3 hurricane, according to an article in Hurricane Science.

Cyclone Marian, 1991

In April 1991, Cyclone Marian -- or Cyclone 02B -- barrelled into the southern coast of Bangladesh, notching winds up to 210 kph and submerging coastal areas. The deadly cyclone killed 139,000 people, according to a US government aid report. “Entire populations were wiped out on some of the smaller islands.”

Typhoon Nina, 1974

Typhoon Nina, called Typhoon Bebeng in the Philippines, made landfall in China with speeds of 185 kph in August 1975. It was one of the deadliest but short-lived super typhoon. The Banquio and Shimantan Dams in China collapsed due to the storm, flooding swathes of counties in the Henan province. The floods recorded more than 150,000 casualties.

Cyclone Nargis, 2008

Cyclone Nargis hits Myanmar in May 2008, killing around 138,000 and washing away tens of thousands of homes. It recorded wind speeds of more than 200 kph and almost 2.4 million people were seriously affected.

Swatow typhoon, 1922

The typhoon was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in the Western North Pacific Ocean, which hit the Chinese city of Swatow in 1922. An estimated 60,000 to 1 lakh people perished in the storm that inundated land for several days.

Bengal cyclone, 1942

The very severe cyclonic storm hit the Bay of Bengal near the India-East Pakistan (Bangladesh and West Bengal) border, killing about 40,000-60,000 people. Wind gust of 225 kph was recorded. It was reportedly the worst disaster in colonial India since the Quetta earthquake in 1935.

Andhra Pradesh cyclone, 1977 

More than 10,000 were killed after the super cyclonic storm struck Andhra Pradesh, with winds reaching 200 kph, The Hindu said in an article. About one million houses were damaged, and crops on 1.35 million hectares (ha) were destroyed that year, said Down to Earth.

Paradip cyclone, 1999

1999 super cyclone swept through the state, killing at least 10,000 people and leaving an estimated 1.5 million homeless. Winds of over 250kph were recorded in the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean.

It was also the deadliest tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean since the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, and the deadliest Indian storm since 1971.

The Category Five storm made landfall just weeks after a category 4 storm hit the same general area.

Fast and furious: Storms ranked on the basis of wind speed

NameYearWind speedMeasureRegion
Hurricane Patricia2015345 km/h ( 215 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsEastern Pacific
Hurricane Allen1980305 km/h (190 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsNorth Atlantic
Hurricane Wilma2005295 km/h (185 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsNorth Atlantic
Labor Day1935295 km/h (185 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsNorth Atlantic Ocean
Gilbert1988295 km/h (185 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsNorth Atlantic Ocean
Linda1997295 km/h (185 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsEastern Pacific Ocean
Irma2017295 km/h (185 mph)Peak 1-min sustained speedsNorth Atlantic Ocean
Paradip1999260 km/h (160 mph)Peak 3 min sustained windsNorth Indian Ocean

(Wind speeds refer to the Peak 1-min sustained speeds unless otherwise mentioned.)