Catastrophic events such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes cause on average 60,000 casualties in the world. Besides it costs huge money and a negative impact on the economy and nation, especially to the people who live under the poverty level. (OurWorldinData, https://ourworldindata.org/natural-disasters#natural-disasters-kill-on-average-60-000-people-per-year-and-are-responsible-for-0-1-of-global-deaths)
Central Asian countries also witnessed severe natural disasters which caused several thousand fatalities. In this article, we will discuss the major threats – earthquakes by analyzing historic incidents
Andijan earthquake – 1902
The Andijan earthquake is one of the catastrophic natural disasters in Central Asia. The incident occurred in December of 1902 in the Andijan city of the Russian Empire (modern Uzbekistan). The earthquake consisted of 3 aftershocks. The first one occurred with a magnitude of 8-9, the second with 9-9.5, and the last one with a strength of 8 in Mercalli Intensity scale.
Consequently, 11 thousand buildings in Asian-style and 161 European style buildings were destroyed. Almost 5000 or 9% population of the city (1902) were killed during or after the earthquake under the rubbles of buildings.
The material lost amounted to 12 million Soviet rubbles. (Dic Academic, https://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/ruwiki/1279203)
Ashgabat earthquake – 1948
If the Andijan earthquake is among the hugest in Central Asia, the Ashgabat earthquake is one the most disruptive in the world according to UNESCO.
Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan witnessed the massive earthquake with a 7.3 Richter scale on 6 October 1948. It happened at night when the majority of residents were asleep. Tens of thousand people died under the rubble of their own home without even realizing what was happened.
According to the official data, 25,000 – 30,000 people died and far many residents become homeless. However, the new study by Turkmen professionals showed that the number of casualties was much higher – over 160,000 people.
The day of the 6th of October is an official memorable day in Turkmenistan. The events and entertainment are canceled each year as well as flags are lowered. People listen to funeral sounds and speeches and memorize their relatives and acquaintances who become victims of the natural disaster. (Eadaily, https://eadaily.com/ru/news/2018/10/06/etot-den-v-istorii-1948-god-ashhabadskoe-zemletryasenie)
Tashkent earthquake – 1966
Tashkent, the capital city of modern Uzbekistan is located in a seismically dangerous zone. In the last 150 years, there were 10 severe earthquakes in the city.
On 26 April 1966, a strong earthquake shook the Tashkent. The strength of the earthquake reached 8 scale magnitude in the epicenter. Although the number of victims was not as much as the Ashgabat or Andijan earthquake, the incident converted the city into ruins.
Precisely, 2 million square meters of housing, 700 trade and catering outlets, around 180 schools, 236 administrative buildings, 36 cultural institutions, 245 industrial and 180 medical enterprises were either damaged or demolished.
As a result, 78,000 families, or 300,000 people become homeless. (Shosh, https://shosh.uz/toshkent-zilzilalari/)
Other natural disasters
Earthquakes are the most frequent incidents in Central Asia. Other major earth tremors were the Khait earthquake (7200 deaths), the Karatag earthquake (400-4880 deaths), the Kebin earthquake (450 deaths), and the Kopet Dag earthquake (3800 casualties). (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Earthquakes_in_Asia_by_country)
Fortunately, the hurricanes, tsunamis, or wildfires are not common in Central Asia due to the enormous distance from the ocean. However, the flood and drought can be considered as other common disasters for the countries of Central Asia.