Avalanches are one of the deadliest natural disasters in the world. They comprise of ice, rock, and snow that moves very quickly. Avalanches are notorious for causing severe destruction to human settlements that are in their path. Avalanches are usually caused by heavy precipitation or by glacier debris.
It’s also important to note that the taller and the steeper the mountain is, the deadlier the avalanche can be. As a result, the avalanche’s velocity increases significantly as it cascades down the slope or a mountain.
Below are the top 10 deadliest avalanches in human history.
May 31, 1970 – Yungay, Peru – 20,000 Casualties
On May 31, 1970, an earthquake that struck off the coast of Peru caused a large section of the northern slope of Mount Huascarán to collapse. As a result, an avalanche flowed downhill at speeds of 100 mph with a mass of more than 80 million cubic feet of snow, ice, rock, and mud. The avalanche ran for almost 11 miles. Consequently, the avalanche buried the nearby human settlements of Yungay and Ranrahica. The estimated casualty of the avalanche is around 20,000 deaths. This is by far the deadliest avalanche in human history.
December 13, 1916 – Tyrolean Alps – 10,000 Casualties
Next in our list of deadliest avalanches in human history occurred at the height of the World War 1. On December 13, 1916, a series of avalanches killed an estimated 10,000 Italian and Austrian forces in Tyrolean Alps. The avalanche was the result of heavy snowfall and the excessive use of man-made explosives. This is one of the deadliest natural disasters in wartime history.
January 10, 1962 – Ranrahirca, Peru – 3,500 Casualties
An avalanche caused by a heavy storm fell into a 3,000 feet canyon which obliterated two villages. The two villages are totally destroyed and over 3,500 people were dead. The avalanche went as far as the neighboring human settlements which wiped them out, too. Finally, a huge mass of snow and debris flowed out of the canyon and into Ranrahirca. As a result, the whole town was buried completely.
September 4, 1618 – Plurs, Switzerland – 2,427 Casualties
On September 4, 1618, a massive avalanche buried the town of Plurs in Switzerland, completely. The avalanche buried the whole town completely and wipe it off the face of the earth. Only 4 people survived the avalanche as they are away at the time of the disaster.
1950-1951 – Swiss-Austrian-Italian Alp – Estimated 265 Casualties
The so-called Winter of Terror back in 1950-1951 caused massive snowstorms and, as a result, it dumped large masses of snow and ice into the Swiss-Austrian-Italian Alps. This resulted in over 600 avalanches in that season alone. All in all, over 265 people died in one of the deadliest winter seasons in human history.
January 12, 1954 – Blons, Austria Over 200 Casualties
This is one of the deadliest avalanches in Austrian history because total destruction in the small village of Blons, Austria is observed following the dry-snow avalanche.
Another avalanche hit the village nine hours later. As a result, it wiped out the village completely. In conclusion, the avalanches killed over 200 people.
March 1979 – Lahaul Valley, India – 200 Casualties
A series of heavy snowstorms in the course of five days resulted in multiple avalanches that flowed down the slope of Himalayas. The valley of Himachal Pradesh state is buried completely. The estimated casualty was around 200 people.
April 7, 2012 – Siachen Glacier Region – 140 Casualties
An avalanche struck a Pakistani military base in the Siachen Glacier region on April 7, 2012. As a result, a total of 140 soldiers were under deep snow following the avalanche. The consequent search and rescue operations went for more than a month, however, all of them yield zero results. Finally by May 29, 2012, all soldiers are reported to have died in the disaster.
Avalanches are kind of underrated in comparison to other natural disasters for instance, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions.
Even though they are not as widespread as tornadoes and hurricanes, the damage they can bring can be as destructive as the other natural disasters. Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself about avalanche preparedness This is especially important if you are living within the vicinity of an avalanche prone area.