Worst natural disasters in the Philippines

Gwen De La Cruz

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Worst natural disasters in the Philippines
Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 appear in all 3 categories – worst in terms of number of casualties, amount of damage and number of people affected


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Executive Order 137 mandates the Philippines to commemorate “National Disaster Consciousness Month” every July.

The country is no stranger to natural disasters, as it is surrounded by bodies of water, and is located along the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire.” From typhoons to tsunamis to volcanic eruptions to earthquakes – name it, the Philippines has experienced it.

As this year’s Disaster Consciousness Month ends, let’s look back at the worst natural disasters that have hit the country.

Rappler divided this into 3 categories – number of casualties, amount of damage and number of people affected – based on the EM-DAT International Disaster Database as of Friday, August 1.

Notice that Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 and Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 appear in all 3 categories, making these recent weather disturbances top the worst in the country’s history so far.

Worst disasters in PH in terms of casualties: 

DisasterDateNumber of People Killed
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) 8-Nov-2013 6,300
1976 Mindanao earthquake 17-Aug-1976 6,000
Typhoon Uring (Thelma) 5-Nov-1991 5,956
1990 Luzon earthquake 16-Jul-1990 2,412
Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) 4-Dec-2012 1,901
Tropical Depression Winnie 29-Nov-2004 1,619
Typhoon Titang (Kate) 13-Oct-1970 1,551
Typhoon Sendong (Washi) 15-Dec-2011 1,439
Typhoon Nitang (Ike) 1-Sep-1984 1,422
Typhoon Reming (Durian) 30-Nov-2006 1,399


1. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

Typhoon Yolanda is one of the world’s strongest and deadliest typhoons, prompting a rare public storm signal no. 4 in the Visayas. (READ: Storm signal no. 4 in PH history). Typhoon Yolanda caused massive devastation that killed 6,300 people. (READ: TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda)

2. 1976 Mindanao earthquake

With a magnitude of 7.9, it is also considered one of the strongest earthquakes to ever hit the country. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the tremor caused a tsunami in the coastline of the Moro Gulf in the North Celebes Sea.

This “tsunamigenic earthquake” caused buildings to collapse, and killed around 6,000 people.

3.Typhoon Uring (Thelma)

Typhoon Uring is the second deadliest typhoon to hit the country. On November 5, 1991, it brought torrential rains over Leyte, causing several rivers to overflow and triggering massive flooding. It killed around 5,000 people, majority of whom were residents of Ormoc City.

4. 1990 Luzon earthquake

With a magnitude of 7.8, it is considered as one of the strongest and most devastating earthquakes to hit the country. The 1990 tremor caused several buildings and hotels to collapse in the cities of Baguio, Dagupan and Cabanatuan – burying people alive. The earthquake left 2,412 people dead. (READ: Remembering the 1990 Luzon Earthquake)

5. Typhoon Pablo (Bopha)

Typhoon Pablo is one of the worst typhoons to hit Mindanao, causing massive flooding and killing 1,901 people. (READ: TIMELINE: Looking back at 2012’s Typhoon Pablo (Bopha))

6. Tropical Depression Winnie

In 2004, Tropical Depression Winnie struck Luzon and Visayas. Although it was not as strong as the other typhoons, it brought continuous torrential rain especially in Central Luzon, causing landslides and killing 1,619 people. The name “Winnie” was retired after this.

7. Typhoon Titang (Kate)

Also one of the strongest typhoons to hit Mindanao, Typhoon Titang’s strong winds and heavy rains left 1,551 people dead.

8. Typhoon Sendong (Washi)

On December 15, 2011, Sendong hit the northern part of Mindanao and killed 1,439 people. Because of the massive number of fatalities and the damage it brought, it is also considered one of the deadliest typhoons in the Philippines. (READ: Investigate factors that lead to deaths from Sendong)

 9. Typhoon Nitang (Ike)

Typhoon Ike battered Central Visayas on September 1, 1984. It made several landfalls and brought strong winds and rains that caused the largest river in Negros Occidental to overflow. At least 1,422 people were killed. 

10. Typhoon Reming (Durian)

Months after Mt. Mayon’s eruption in 2006, Bicolanos faced another natural disaster when Typhoon Reming hit Albay in November 30. The flood caused by the typhoon was aggravated by the mud coming from the volcano, leaving 1,399 people dead. 

Worst disasters in PH in terms of cost of damage:

DisasterDateEstimated Cost of Damage (000, US$)
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) 8-Nov-2013 2,051,711
Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) 4-Dec-2012 1,692,961
Typhoon Sisang (Nina) 4-Sep-1995 700,300
Typhoon Pepeng (Parma) 29-Sep-2009 585,379
Mt. Pinatubo eruption 15-Jun-1991 443,000
Typhoon Ruping (Mike) 12-Nov-1990 388,500
1990 Luzon earthquake 16-Jul-1990 369,600
Typhoon Pedring (Nesat) 24-Sep-2011 344,173
Typhoon Frank (Fengshen) 21-Jun-2008 284,694
Typhoon Juan (Megi) 18-Oct-2010 275,745


1. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

One of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Typhoon Yolanda also brought massive damage to the country. The estimated cost of damage is around US$2 billion. 

2. Typhoon Pablo (Bopha)

Damage caused by Typhoon Pablo amounted to $1.6 billion.

3. Typhoon Sisang (Nina)

In September 1995, Typhoon Sisang hit Luzon right after another typhoon. Typhoon Sisang brought heavy rains that caused people to be trapped on top of their roofs. The estimated amount of damage is $700,300 million.

 4. Typhoon Pepeng (Parma)

People had yet to recover from the devastation brought by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in Luzon in September 26, 2009, when Typhoon Pepeng entered the country in September 30, worsening the damage in the region too. The estimated cost of damage is around $585,379 million.

5. Mt. Pinatubo eruption

After many centuries of dormancy, Mt. Pinatubo violently erupted on June 15, 1991. The volcanic ash it released severely damaged houses and buildings in Luzon and even reached other parts of the world such as the Indian Ocean.

The effects of the eruption worsened when heavy rains started to pour, causing lahars to flow faster over the land, burying everything, even rivers. The total cost of damage amounted to at least US$443 million.

6. Typhoon Ruping (Mike)

Typhoon Ruping brought to Cebu strong winds and heavy rains that even caused the ship MV Dona Roberta to sink. The estimated amount of damage is around $388,500 million.

7. 1990 Luzon earthquake

The 1990 Luzon earthquake is one of the worst disasters in terms of casualties and damage – about $369 million dollars.

8. Typhoon Pedring (Nesat)

On September 24, 2011, Typhoon Pedring hit the country, causing flood in Luzon. The southwest monsoon worsened the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Pedring. The estimated damage is around $344,173 million.

9. Typhoon Frank (Fengshen)

On June 21, 2008, Typhoon Frank devastated Visayas, especially Iloilo, where more than half of the city experienced massive flooding. The estimated damage is around $285 million.

10. Typhoon Juan (Megi)

Bringing in strong winds and heavy rains on Luzon in October 18, 2010, Typhoon Juan was put under the strongest category of typhoons: category 5. The estimated damage is around $276 million.


Worst disasters in PH in terms of number of people affected:

DisasterDateNumber of Affected People
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) 8-Nov-2013 16,106,807
Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) 4-Dec-2012 6,246,664
Typhoon Ruping (Mike) 12-Nov-1990 6,159,569
Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) 26-Sep-2009 4,901,763
Typhoon Frank (Fengshen) 21-Jun-2008 4,785,460
Typhoon Pepeng (Parma) 29-Sep-2009 4,478,491
2012 Habagat (Southwest Monsoon) 6-Aug-2012 4,451,725
Typhoon Loleng (Babs) 21-Oct-1998 3,902,424
Typhoon Milenyo (Xangsane) 27-Sep-2006 3,842,406
Typhoon Openg (Vera) 20-Nov-1973 3,400,024


1. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

Aside from the number of casualties and the massive damage brought by Typhoon Yolanda, the number of people it affected, around 16 million, makes it the worst disaster to hit the country.

2. Typhoon Pablo (Bopha)

Same as Typhoon Yolanda, which affected millions apart from causing massive casualties and damage, Typhoon Pablo affected around 6.2 million people.

3. Typhoon Ruping (Mike)

This typhoon affected around 6.1 million people.

4. Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana)

Typhoon Ondoy brought in a month’s volume of rain in just 9 hours, which caused massive flooding in Metro Manila and other parts of Central Luzon. It affected around 4.9 million people.

5. Typhoon Frank (Fengshen)

Around 4.7 million people were affected by the flooding caused by Typhoon Frank in the Visayas.

6. Typhoon Pepeng (Parma)

Along with the massive damage it brought the country, Pepeng also affected 4.4 million people.

7. Habagat in 2012 (Southwest Monsoon)

Enhanced by Typhoon Haikui, this habagat brought in heavy rains in Luzon, especially in Metro Manila, for 8 days in August, causing massive flooding. It affected around 4.4 million people.

8. Typhoon Loleng (Babs)

Also one of the strongest typhoons, Typhoon Loleng hit Visayas on October 21, 1998. It affected around 3.9 million people.

9. Typhoon Milenyo (Xangsane)

When Typhoon Milenyo hit Metro Manila on September 27, 2006, it brought with it strong winds and heavy rain that caused massive flooding in the capital. It affected around 3.8 million people.

10. Typhoon Openg (Vera)

One of the strongest typhoons to hit Visayas when it entered on November 20, 1973, Typhoon Openg affected around 3.4 million people.– with research by Mica Romulo/Rappler.com

Sources: Asian Disaster Reduction Center Country Report 2012Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2012Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes, Encyclopedia of Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones, Eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS)

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