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Watch A natural disaster is a major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth; examples include floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geologic processes. A natural disaster can cause loss of life or property damage, and typically leaves some economic damage in its wake, the severity of which depends on the affected populations resilience, or ability to recover and also on the infrastructure available.
An adverse event will not rise to the level of a disaster if it occurs in an area without vulnerable population. In a vulnerable area, however, such as Nepal during the 2015 earthquake, an earthquake can have disastrous consequences and leave lasting damage, requiring years to repair.
Avalanches and landslides
See also: List of avalanches
During World War I, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 soldiers died as a result of avalanches during the mountain campaign in the Alps at the Austrian-Italian front. Many of the avalanches were caused by artillery fire.
See also: Lists of earthquakes
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earths crust that creates seismic waves. At the Earths surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by vibration, shaking and sometimes displacement of the ground. Earthquakes are caused by slippage within geological faults. The underground point of origin of the earthquake is called the seismic focus. The point directly above the focus on the surface is called the epicenter. Earthquakes by themselves rarely kill people or wildlife. It is usually the secondary events that they trigger, such as building collapse, fires, tsunamis (seismic sea waves) and volcanoes, which are actually the human disaster. Many of these could possibly be avoided by better construction, safety systems, early warning and planning.
See also: Sinkholes § Notable examples
The Red Lake (Croatia).
When natural erosion or human mining makes the ground too weak to support the structures built on it, the ground can collapse and produce a sinkhole. For example, the 2010 Guatemala City sinkhole which killed fifteen people was caused when heavy rain from Tropical Storm Agatha, diverted by leaking pipes into a pumice bedrock, led to the sudden collapse of the ground beneath a factory building.
Artists impression of the volcanic eruptions that formed the Deccan Traps in India.
Main articles: List of largest volcanic eruptions and Types of volcanic eruptions
Volcanoes can cause widespread destruction and consequent disaster in several ways. The effects include the volcanic eruption itself that may cause harm following the explosion of the volcano or the fall of rock. Second, lava may be produced during the eruption of a volcano. As it leaves the volcano, the lava destroys many buildings, plants and animals due to its extreme heat . Third, volcanic ash generally meaning the cooled ash - may form a cloud, and settle thickly in nearby locations. When mixed with water this forms a concrete-like material. In sufficient quantity ash may cause roofs to collapse under its weight but even small quantities will harm humans if inhaled. Since the ash has the consistency of ground glass it causes abrasion damage to moving parts such as engines. The main killer of humans in the immediate surroundings of a volcanic eruption is the pyroclastic flows, which consist of a cloud of hot volcanic ash which builds up in the air above the volcano and rushes down the slopes when the eruption no longer supports the lifting of the gases. It is believed that Pompeii was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow. A lahar is a volcanic mudflow or landslide. The 1953 Tangiwai disaster was caused by a lahar, as was the 1985 Armero tragedy in which the town of Armero was buried and an estimated 23,000 people were killed.
A specific type of volcano is the supervolcano. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, 75,000 to 80,000 years ago a supervolcanic event at Lake Toba reduced the human population to 10,000 or even 1,000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution. It also killed three-quarters of all plant life in the northern hemisphere. The main danger from a supervolcano is the immense cloud of ash, which has a disastrous global effect on climate and temperature for many years.