May 2003 Disasters

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
  • May: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was first detected in southern China last November, continued to spread in China and Taiwan but appeared to be contained in other areas of the world. As of May 31st, there were a probable 8,300 cases with a confirmed death toll of 755.
  • April-May, Horn of Africa: Flooding in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia killed more than 150 people.
  • May 1– 11, United States: A series of tornadoes battered the Midwest and Southern states during May. In the first 11 days there were 412 tornadoes which broke the previous record in 1999 of about 200 tornadoes in a 10–day period (record keeping began in 1950).
  • May 1, Bingol, Turkey: In a remote region in the southeastern part of Turkey, an earthquake measuring 6.4 magnitude killed 177 people, including 83 boys from a school dormitory.
  • May 1, China: An accident on a Chinese submarine killed 70 people. The cause of the accident has not yet been disclosed.
  • May 4, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee: A series of tornadoes ripped through four states, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee causing at least 38 deaths and extensive damage to buildings and homes. The hardest hit area was Lawrence County, Missouri. Officials from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported sightings of more than 80 tornadoes in parts of central and southeastern United States. Strong storms and tornadoes continued to hit the South and Midwest through the week, bringing the total number of deaths to more than 41. Some towns in Missouri closed schools for the year.
  • May 8, Kinshasa, Congo: When the cargo door of a Russian-built Ilyushin 76 opened 45 minutes after takeoff, more than 100 people were sucked out of the plane and died. The plane, an Ukrainian charter, was carrying Congolese soldiers and their families to Lubumbashi in southeast Congo. The exact number of causalities is unknown as there were no passenger lists.
  • May 12, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: suicide bombers killed 34, including eight Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners. Al-Qaeda suspected.
  • May 13, Hefei, Anhui province, China: A gas explosion in a Chinese mine claimed the lives of 81 miners. Five are still missing and 27 were rescued.
  • May 17–18, Sri Lanka: Floods and landslides in south-central Sri Lanka killed more than 300 people, left more than 200 missing, and more than 150,000 homeless. Although May through September is typically the monsoon season, these downpours were the worst in 60 years.
  • May 14–June 5, India: A 3–week heat wave with temperatures over 120° F. (48° C) left more than 1,200 people dead from sunstroke and dehydration. Most of the deaths occurred in the southern Andhra Pradesh state where a similar heat wave last year killed more than 1,000 people.
  • May 21, Algeria: There were 2,266 people killed and thousands more injured by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that caused the collapse of numerous buildings. The epicenter was 45 miles east of Algiers, the capital city.
  • May 26, Sindal, Japan: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan, however, there were no casualties and very few people were injured due to the depth (about 44 miles underground) of the epicenter of the earthquake.
  • May 26, Macka, Turkey: A Ukrainian chartered airplane carrying Spanish peacekeeping forces returning from Afghanistan crashed into a mountain in heavy fog while attempting to land at Trabzon airport, killing all 75 people onboard.

See also Major Earthquakes Around the World 2003

See also Recent Volcanic Activity

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