According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.), natural disasters are now occurring three times more often than they were in the 1970s and 1980s, also increasing in scale and intensity. This means they are wreaking a disproportionately large amount of havoc and destruction in the least developed and low- to middle-income countries, where people are least able to cope.
What happens when we combine Mother Nature’s propensity for reminding us who’s really in charge every now and again with the massive increase in the use of security cameras, dash cams, and camera phones around the globe? We get to experience—now more than ever—what it is like to really confront one of these disasters for ourselves (from the safety of our own homes, of course!). So here is a list of 10 home videos that recorded deadly natural disasters.
10 Earthquake—Luzon, The Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelago in southeast Asia that regularly experiences volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, typhoons, and all the terrible things that generally accompany them, such as tsunamis, flooding, and landslides. Given its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is subjected to over 2,000 earthquakes every single year. Since 1951, they have claimed more than 4,800 lives without even counting the tsunamis that often follow them.
This video has no audio but shows a group of friends enjoying some free time in a local swimming pool when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake strikes their home of Luzon. The group struggles to evacuate the churning water as the tremors roll through, clearly shaking the trees and structures in the background before eventually subsiding after about a minute.
This was only a small rumble compared to some of the more destructive quakes the Filipino people have had to weather over the years, but the waves created in the pool really highlight how violently the ground moved. Unfortunately, eighteen people lost their lives in the quake, although everybody in this video escaped unharmed.
9 Volcano—Whakaari, New Zealand
Whakaari, also known as White Island, is a privately owned islet located off of the northeastern coast of New Zealand. It had been a popular tourist attraction for many years, despite being New Zealand’s most active volcano, before disaster struck in December 2019.
An increase in seismological activity had been recorded in the weeks leading up to the event. Still, no official warnings were issued, so two separate tour groups visited the island by boat that afternoon. Just after the first group completed their tour and their boat was leaving the island, Whakaari exploded, spewing a massive plume of rocks, steam, and burning gas across the island and 12,000 feet up into the air.
The video, recorded by Allessandro Kauffmann, shows the tour boat he is traveling on returning to the island immediately after the eruption to try to help any survivors. Official rescue efforts were delayed because of the risk of further eruptions, but three heroic helicopter pilots launched their own rescue efforts, only to later be charged by the New Zealand health and safety authority, WorkSafe.
Unfortunately, a total of 47 people were stuck on the island when the superheated gas enveloped them, 22 of whom lost their lives. Many survivors suffered life-changing injuries as a result of their burns.
Indonesia, like its neighbor, the Philippines, can be considered pretty unlucky geographically. It consists of over 17,500 islands—most uninhabited, though—which are home to 120 active volcanoes. Also located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is regularly subjected to earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and soil liquefaction. In late 2018, the Indonesian people would experience all of these cataclysmic possibilities within a two-month period.
At 6 pm on the 28th of September, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Palu on Sulawesi Island, causing a huge underwater landslide that, in turn, triggered a tsunami. As early warning systems malfunctioned, people were completely unprepared when a 23-foot high wave smashed into the city of Palu. At the same time the wave hit, soil liquefaction occurred over vast areas, swallowing entire buildings whole. In total, more than 2,000 people died in this disaster with more than 4,200 injured. Some news reports included home video footage.
Then, just two months later, on December 22, the Anak Krakatau volcano erupted, which caused another landslide as the southwest flank collapsed into the sea. This massive displacement of water created a tsunami in the Sundra Strait that was also not picked up by early warning systems. At 8:30 pm local time, the tsunami crashed into the shores of western Java and southern Sumatra.
This home video was shot at a seaside concert in western Java. Popular local group Seventeen were performing to over 200 people, mostly families, when the wave struck them from behind. While the singer survived the terrifying ordeal, in later interviews, he claimed he wished that he had died too. He lost all of his bandmates and his wife in this tragic event that took more than 400 lives.
7 Flood—Henan, China
The term “once in a lifetime weather event” is being thrown around a lot these days, especially when it comes to flooding in areas that may have seen little in the way of disasters in recent years, such as New York or Germany. In July 2021, the flooding in Henan Province, China, though, really can be considered once in a lifetime. The provincial capital of Zhengzhou received an entire year’s worth of rainfall in three days, and as you might expect, the entire city was submerged.
This was a terrifying event for everyone living in the province, but those who faced the most immediate danger were the people who found themselves trapped underground in the city’s metro system as water levels began to rise rapidly up to their necks. In total, 14 people lost their lives in the city’s subway, and many more are thought to have died throughout the province as videos emerged of people being washed away all over the city.
This video shows passengers stuck in a train carriage with the doors closed as brown water quickly rises all around them. Fortunately, they were eventually able to evacuate to safety, although many others were not so lucky that day.
6 Wildfire—Manavgat, Turkey
Today, Americans are so used to experiencing wildfires in the summer that news of them happening in other countries really doesn’t garner much attention. However, the huge increase in the number of wildfires across the planet over the last few years has meant that people have begun to recognize that this isn’t just an issue in California.
Australia, Brazil, Turkey, Greece, Algeria, Italy, India, Russia, and Cyprus all had millions of acres of land reduced to smoldering ash due to huge forest fires over the last few years. This video comes from Turkey as some restaurant workers are trying to return home following a food delivery to firefighters tackling blazes in the Manavgat countryside. The hellish landscape of blazing forest seems to close in around them until they have nowhere to go and are forced to turn back. Fortunately, they were able to escape the flames unharmed, but many were not so lucky, with at least eight fatalities and hundreds injured across the country.
5 Hurricane—Florida, USA
Hurricane Michael struck Florida on October 10, 2018, and meteorologists soon realized that they were dealing with one of the biggest category 5 storms to ever make landfall in the eastern United States. Overall, it caused $25 billion in damages and was directly responsible for the deaths of 16 people. Still, despite all this mayhem and destruction, one plucky Callaway resident decided he would make a home movie documenting the damage caused to his community in this incredible video.
In just 15 minutes, you can watch his entire neighborhood get shredded by 150mph winds, and at the end, you get to see a walk-through of a residential street that has been reduced to nothing more than a pile of branches and shattered roof tiles.
4 Landslide—Kachin, Myanmar
This video was recorded at an illegal jade mine in the Kachin state of northern Myanmar. Kachin state has a long history of resistance against the oppressive Tatmadaw (Burmese Army). As such, the region is in many ways free from centralized Burmese control, meaning drug production, smuggling, and illegal mining are all common in the area.
One such illegal mine was experiencing unseasonably heavy rainfall when a miner decided to pull out his phone and begin recording. The landslide he captured on video sent a wave of mud and rock rolling down the valley like a tsunami and was responsible for the deaths of more than 162 people.
3 Sinkhole—Florida, USA
The idiom “I wish the ground would swallow me up” was obviously never meant to be taken literally. After all, the idea that you could just be minding your own business, carrying on with your life, and then, in a split second, the ground could open up and swallow you whole would be downright terrifying, no matter how embarrassed you are. Sinkholes happen more often than you might think, though, and every now and again, somebody ends up inside one.
One such unfortunate person was Jeffrey Bush, a 36-year-old Florida man who had just turned in for the night when the ground below him simply collapsed and swallowed him up. He screamed out for his brother, who rushed to his aid, only to find Jeffrey and all the contents of his bedroom had crashed through the floor into a sinkhole below.
This video was made as rescue workers tried to communicate with Jeffrey using a camera and microphone on a long pole to check on his whereabouts and condition. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive, and his body could not be recovered, so the sinkhole was filled in, the house and two neighboring properties were demolished, and the whole area was fenced off. That wasn’t quite the end of the story, however, as just two years later, the sinkhole opened up again, although this time nobody was hurt.
2 Avalanche—Mount Everest base camp, Nepal
Avalanches can have a variety of causes; sometimes, snow can just gradually pile up before collapsing down the side of the hill under its own weight. Often they are created deliberately with explosions, but sometimes they can be made by other natural disasters that occur many miles away. In the case of the Everest avalanche of 2015, it was the latter, as an enormous earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Nepal on the afternoon of April 25, 2015, killing over 9,000 people. A video shows just how strong the tremors were, hurling people back and forth as the city of Kathmandu was violently shaken by the quake.
Way up at Mount Everest base camp, the shock waves were not strong enough to hurt anyone, nor were there any buildings to collapse on top of the 2,000 people gathered there. However, minutes after the deadly earthquake struck Kathmandu valley, a huge avalanche of ice and rock came crashing down Mount Pumori, completely burying the campsite at its base.
At least 20 people died, and hundreds were injured by the falling debris. This video shows the ferocity and intensity of the icy blast created by the avalanche and just how lucky the cameraman and his friend were to survive, ducking into their tent just in time.
1 Tornado—Illinois, USA
This final video shows probably the most terrifying video of a tornado that has ever been recorded. (Please add a link in the comments if you know of any contenders!) It was filmed by 84-year-old Clem Schultz from his bedroom window after he and his wife noticed the twister forming behind their home in Illinois.
Living in an area that sees numerous tornadoes every year, the couple considered their options but decided that they were confident that the tornado would pass by their home to the west, leaving them unscathed. Assuming the power could go out at any time, Clem headed upstairs to grab a lantern when he noticed from his bedroom window that the tornado was gathering pace and growing bigger by the second. He decided to begin filming, and even when he realized that the tornado would not just pass them by, he said nothing at all as it smashed into him with a deafening roar before everything turned black and the video ended.
Somehow, Clem actually survived this incredible encounter with one of the biggest tornadoes that Illinois has ever seen. His wife was not so lucky, though, as she was one of two people killed. Many more were injured, and 24 homes were completely destroyed.