Natural disasters in the 1960s

Updated November 21, 2016

Natural disasters can strike anywhere in the world, without warning. Each region has its own environmental and geographic concerns, depending on its location. Certain areas are susceptible to earthquakes, others are in the potential path of hurricanes. Other unpredictable disasters can strike anywhere at any time, such as drought or flood. The 1960s, like most other decades in the earth's existence, saw its fair share of natural disasters.


Dangerous fault lines are found throughout the world and predicting when the plates on either side of these lines will shift, causing an earthquake is often anyone's guess. In 1960, the most powerful earthquake of the century hit Valdavia, Chile. The quake registered an astonishing 9.5 on the Richter scale and killed around 5,700 people. Also in 1960, a 5.7 quake hit Agadir, Morocco, leaving 10,000 dead. In 1962, an earthquake hit Iran and killed over 12,000 people. A 1966 quake hit Turkey, measuring 7.1 and killing about 2,500 people.

Hurricanes and Wind Storms

People usually have warning that a hurricane has formed and is on the move. The dangerous storms are unpredictable, however, and can intensify or change paths at the last minute. In 1960, the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. were hit by Hurricane Donna, leaving around 150 people dead. Hurricane Hattie struck Honduras in 1961, killing 400. A typhoon hit Hong Kong in 1962, killing 200 people. In 1963, a land windstorm swept through Bangladesh, leaving 22,000 people dead. Three more struck in 1965, killing an additional 57,000.


Floods claimed many lives throughout the world in the 1960s. Seas or rivers rising and dams breaking are two common flood causes. Two floods struck Bangladesh in 1960, claiming a total of 10,000 lives. The North Sea coast of Germany flooded in 1962 and left around 350 people dead. The same year a flood hit Barcelona, Spain, killing around 450. In 1963, a dam collapsed in Vaiont, Italy, killing 1,800 people. A flood struck eastern Brazil in 1967 and killed about 900 people. In 1968, a flood in India caused the deaths of 1,000 people and a flood in Tunisia in 1969 killed 500.

Famine and Illness

Famine and worldwide pandemic illnesses have been the cause of millions of deaths throughout the history of the world. The 1960s were no exception. At the beginning of the 1960s, China was in the grips of a famine caused by floods and crop loss. By 1961, when the famine ended, the death toll ranged somewhere in the neighbourhood of an astonishing 20 million people. In 1965, India was struck by famine and lost 1.5 million people. In 1968, the "Hong Kong Flu" pandemic causing the deaths of 34,000 Americans and as many as 700,000 people around the globe.

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