This is a timeline of some of the major disasters, disaster management initiatives, and disaster relief efforts since 1600. This is a preliminary effort, and by no means an exhaustive list, but it is intended to try to provide some sense of the events that had an important effect in creating an understanding of catastrophic events. Because of the location of this course, more recent years receive particular attention, as do events the United States.

62 A.D. Pompeii Earthquake and 79 A.D. Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius


May 1st, 1889: A flash flood is defined as a sudden local flood of great volume and short duration which follows within a few hours of heavy or excessive rainfall, or due to dam or levee failure, or the sudden release of water impounded by an ice log jam. Although floods are mostly caused by natural factors there are examples where human vulnerability is increased due to man such as the Johnstown flood of May 1889. The Johnstown flood also referred to as the Great Flood was the culmination many factors.


June 15, 1896: The Meiji (Sanriku) Earthquake was a devastating Earthquake-Tsunami that desecrated the villages in the Sanriku region of Japan on June 15th, 1896 (Wiki). In the evening hours, approximately 7:32 P.M, villages along the Sanriku coast were celebrating a Shinto holiday honoring returning soldiers when a small earthquake occurred that raised little concern (Wiki). After about a 35 minute period, the first tsunami hit the coast of Japan, with a second following about three minutes behind (Case).


April 18, 1906: San Francisco, northern California’s largest city and metropolitan area, experienced two major earthquakes in twentieth century: in 1906 and 1989. Although the “Quake of 89” is most likely first to come to mind, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was much larger and far more destructive. At 5:13 a.m., Wednesday April 18, 1906, a large earthquake struck the city. The 1906 disaster, a major earthquake estimated at between 7.8 and 8.3 in magnitude, resulted from the North American and Pacific tectonic plates moving past each other by more than 15 feet: annual average is only two inches (www.mceer.buffalo.edu).


September 1st, 1923: The Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan and the surrounding Kanto region on September 1st, 1923. It is estimated to have been between 7.9-8.2 in magnitude as registered by the Richter scale. The earthquake caused 5.5 billion Yen in damage (Schencking, 833) as well as subsequent financial problems relating to the national budget and reconstruction funds. At the time of the earthquake there were over 2 million inhabitants in Tokyo. Upwards of 140,000 were killed in the trembler and a further 1.5 million were displaced (Schencking, 833).


May 6, 1937: The end of the zeppelin era came to a fiery end on May 6, 1937 when the Hindenburg airship burst into flames over Lakefield, New Jersey. The Hindenburg was the largest airship ever built by the Zeppelin Company and was seen as a symbol of Nazi Germany.


August  17, 1969: A category 5 hurricane named Camille hit landfall along the Mississippi and U.S. Gulf Coast with 190 mph winds, and was one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history.


Gilbert White and Eugene Haas lead National Science Foundation sponsored study at the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder on natural hazards, one of the first interdisciplinary U.S. research initiatives on the topic.


The  Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder issues a national assessment on disaster research and management, emphasizing the need for an interdisciplinary approach to hazard research and management.


On September 19, 1985, at 7:19 A.M., an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the Mexican Pacific Coast. This particular earthquake was the biggest in a series of four earthquakes that struck Mexico City over the course of 12 months. On May 28, 1985, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake struck. On September 20, 1985, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck. The final earthquake struck 6 months later on April 30, 1986, and it was a magnitude 7.0 (“Mexico’s Killer Quake”).


On January 28th, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight. The launch was seen live by millions of Americans. The Challenger had successfully completed nine previous missions before that fateful day. All seven crew members aboard were killed. The Challenger was the first NASA program to feature the new program, Teacher in Space Program.

April 26, 1986: In 1986, a nuclear reactor in Ukraine shut down some of its safety systems in order to run a test on the reactor. There were four nuclear reactors located at Chernobyl, and the fourth reactor was being tested on. Scientists wanted to see if the reactor would stay on if the power were to fail in an emergency. During the shutdown, technicians ran tests to determine whether turbines could produce enough energy to keep the cooling system running incase of a power outage.


December 31st, 1999: Several years before New Years Day 2000 for many people it was the beginning of the end of the world as people knew it then. What caused people to think that a computer glitch could cause such a disaster? To prevent a catastrophe many businesses and governments of the world invested in correcting the problem. The problem was that computers were preset with the number 19 for the year date, and that on the turn of the century when the year 2000 began computers would malfunction.


October 25, 2013: The San Diego Cedar Fire burned through Southern San Diego County in 2003, and was just one of fifteen fires which burned through Southern California that month, which came to be known collectively as the 2003 “Fire Storm.” Although just one of fifteen fires, the Cedar Fire became the largest wildfire in California history, burning approximately 280, 278 acres and causing fourteen fatalities.


December 26, 2004: A 9.3 magnitude earthquake accompanied by a powerful tsunami kills more than 175,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Nearly three quarters of those killed were in Indonesia. While centered in South East Asia, the quake had reverberations all the way to East Africa.


August 23, 2005: Hurricane Katrina was one of the “costliest hurricanes in U.S. history” (“CNN”), with the total estimated damage equaling 108 billion dollars. It was also one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history, killing a total of 1,833 people.

On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck Pakistani-administered Kashmir. At approximately 9:00a.m. local time, the quake struck, its epicenter located in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.


Cyclone Nargis hit the shores of Myanmar in the Ayeyarwady region on May 2nd 2008. Although Nargis was a category three cyclone, the death toll and wide spread destruction has prompted scientist to call the storm one of the worst of all time in the Indian Ocean.


April 2009: The 2009 Swine Influenza pandemic was a widespread, antiviral resistant strain of H1N1 never before observed in humans. There were 18,500 laboratory confirmed deaths as a result of the pandemic which lasted from April 2009-August 2010.


On Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 2:46PM a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded to hit Japan caused the largest Japanese tsunami ever recorded to hit an hour later, which lead to the failure of emergency generators at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant which began a Level 7 meltdown the following day.


October 22, 2012: Hurricane Sandy was a classic late-season hurricane that occurred between October 22nd and 29th 2012. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane to hit land at that time (National Climactic Data Center).


November 8, 2013: A category 5 typhoon named Haiyan hit landfall in the Philippines and continued on to other parts of South East Asia, killing over 5,000 people.

September 16, 2013: Storm damage resulting from Manuel Hurricane caused the deaths of 24 people in Acapulco, as well as the deaths of 78 people in the rural community of La Pintada.


Fukushima Radiation:Fukushima nuclear plant will wash up on the West Coast of the U.S. this year. That’s raising concerns among some Americans including the residents of the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fairfax, which passed a resolution on Dec. 6 calling for more testing of coastal seafood.


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