Fire, water, air, earth: the most life-threatening places on Earth

The weather took many of us by surprise, whethersudden rainfall on the way home or to work or the scorching sun in the absence of a beach or any shelter. But all this can be experienced. There are places on our planet where Mother Nature truly kills. Deadly storms, volcanic eruptions - it is better not to meddle in such places. But among all the dangerous places on our planet, which will be the most deadly?

Let's divide our planet into four elements and find their most dangerous incarnations on Earth.


  • 1 water
  • 2 Air
  • 3 Earth
  • 4 Fire


Water is an obvious danger to us,because we are very poorly adapted to the aquatic environment (and I don’t know how to swim at all). Despite our boat control skills, in 2012, according to the International Maritime Organization, 1,051 people died at sea, although only a small part were damaged due to the direct impact of the waves.

Some waters are more dangerous than others because of the uniquegeographical features that enhance their strength. The Strait of Salstraumen in Norway has earned a terrifying reputation for the most powerful currents on Earth. However, this house for the most powerful whirlpool in the world is now so well understood that tourists pass it in an inflatable boat with a knowledgeable skipper.

Probably with water to a greater extentreckoned on land. For those living on the coast, flooding with sea water is a particular danger. The Maldives, a group of low-lying islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, are also called “ephemeral islands” because of their vulnerability to rising sea levels. The risk increases every year, as our climate continues to change.

The peak of danger occurs at times when the water level suddenly rises, during a tsunami or storm surge.

A tsunami is a sudden movement of water,causing a colossal wave or series of waves, which can have devastating consequences. Most tsunamis - 71% according to the US National Meteorological Service - occur in the Pacific. However, tsunamis caused by earthquakes can occur in any subduction zone, says Torkild Aarup, head of the tsunami group at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

There are mitigation systems in the world andtsunami warnings designed to protect people from these life-threatening events. But in some places the warning time is reduced to 20 minutes, so tsunamis can take many lives. In 2004, the deadliest tsunami in recent history occurred, which claimed 280,000 lives in 15 countries after an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. This sacrifice to the sea is difficult to comprehend. However, more floods claimed lives.

The summer flood of the Yangtze River in China in 1931,it is estimated that millions of people have been killed, although losses in official records are greatly underestimated. Following heavy snowfall that year, strong thawing and abnormally heavy rains came, as a result of which there was probably the worst natural disaster in the history of civilization.

Today, without exaggeration, billions of people live on the banks of the largest Chinese rivers, and the floods associated with possible climate change prevent them from sleeping peacefully at night.


There are several killer lakes in Africa, but water has nothing to do with it.

Lake Nyos in Cameroon and Lake Kivu on the borderThe Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda pose an invisible threat. These lakes are located in places of volcanic activity, where carbon dioxide seeps from the bowels of the earth.

During the "lake eruptions" carbon dioxidebreaks from the bottom of the lake, forming a cloud. Since this gas is heavier than air, it sinks, pushing out oxygen and strangling any life in this area. After two eruptions in the 1980s, killing 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in Cameroon, methods were developed for the safe degassing of lakes using pipes and siphons.

A possible disaster was also turned intobenefit on Lake Kivu, where methane gas leaks from the ground. A project was created to pump gas to produce energy and provide electricity to millions of people.

However, not only gases can kill. The air itself also becomes deadly when the winds become uncontrollable.

Cape Denison in Antarctica is considered the windiest place on Earth. No wonder nobody lives there. However, seasonal storms cause destruction in populated areas around the world.

The strongest storms form over warmoceans north and south of the equator. There, predominant (or trade) winds are amplified by a change in pressure and rotate under the influence of the Coriolis, creating rotating weather systems known as hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.

Speaking of such storms, Haiti is considered the mostvulnerable island in the Caribbean. He not only lies in the path of hurricanes, but even the most impoverished country lacks protection from them. Settlements are built on floodplains, natural protective forests are destroyed, and the economy is not stable enough to provide Haiti with flood protection or an alert system.

This explains why the strongest curtains will not always be the most deadly.

John Birkman is a disaster risk expert at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. He says cyclones are dangerous because they are hard to predict.

“It is important to note that cyclone paths often change. This means that they appear in regions where they did not see cyclones at all or saw very little. "These regions are at particular risk because people and the local community do not know what to do and how to prepare for cyclones."

Birkman is part of a team thatcompiles the annual World Risk Report prepared by the United Nations University. It highlights the countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters, takes into account their resilience and status, and undertakes global initiatives to protect them.

In 2016, Vanuatu topped the list. More than a third of the population of the islands of this country suffer from natural disasters every year. In 2015, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption and a serious cyclone Pam hit the island with an interval of several weeks. 11 people died, according to official data.

This is a relatively low death toll.testifies that global efforts to protect people from natural disasters are working. For comparison: the worst life loss due to a cyclone occurred in November 1970, when a cyclone of Bol hit Bangladesh. Killed 500,000 people.


Among all the possible natural disasters itselfserious cause is tectonic activity. The earth’s crust is made up of moving plates, and when they move against each other, potential energy accumulates. When it is released, the earth cracks and a seismic wave is emitted, striking the surface of the Earth with violent tremors.

The deadliest earthquake happened in 1556year in Shaanxi, China, and claimed 800,000 lives. Since earthquakes also generate tsunamis, it would be fair to say that they are in serious competition with floods for lethality in the world of natural disasters.

San Andreas Rift where the Pacific Plateglides along the North American Plate, passes through California and is one of the most famous plate boundaries. It is not surprising that Hollywood (also known as Californian) directors even made a film of the same name. A serious earthquake could have terrible consequences.

But, again, most vulnerable toearthquakes less affluent parts of our planet. Earthquake-prone cities like Los Angeles and Tokyo use the latest architectural advances to make their homes earthquake resistant and protect their residents. But not all countries along the Pacific Ring of Fire - where 81% of the world's largest earthquakes occur - are capable of this.

In 2015, it was determined that eight of the ten most vulnerable cities in the world for natural disasters are located in the Philippines, which lie not only on the ring of fire, but also inside the typhoon belt.

the fire

The second end of the double-edged sword - tectonicactivity - is volcanic activity. Where the plates extend one from another, hot magma erupts from under the surface of the Earth, filling this void.

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is often described as "the most cruel place on Earth." This is a meeting place of three plates. Perhaps this is also the most volcanically active place in the world.

The average annual temperature here is 34.4degrees Celsius, making it one of the hottest places on Earth. With a small amount of precipitation and a landscape of volcanic faults, hydrothermal fields and salt plains, at first glance, hardly anyone could survive in this depression. But Afar people call this place home.

In general, people have the addiction to settleclose to dangerous geographic features, including exploding mountains spewing rivers of fire. The most famous example is Pompeii, an ancient Italian city that was buried under the lava of Mount Vesuvius. However, several modern cities also have views of active volcanoes. Naples is less than 10 kilometers from Vesuvius, while Mexico City is 70 kilometers from Popocatepetl.

According to a study published in 2015more than 200,000 people have died directly from volcanic eruptions over the past 400 years. An international team of experts also listed places most at risk of volcanic activity. Indonesia was at the top.

Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island directlykilled 70,000 people in 1815, leading to a “year without summer” in the northern hemisphere. The eruption temporarily changed the climate, which means the volcano ultimately killed even more people.

Not so long ago, Mount Merapi killed more than 350 people in 2010. Tens of thousands more were temporarily evacuated.