Historic disaster responses

Since 2000, we have responded to a number of major disasters that shook whole countries and their people. Explore some of them here.

Gujarat earthquake, 2001


On 26 January 2001, a powerful earthquake hit the state of Gujarat, western India.

The earthquake, also known as the Bhuj earthquake, killed nearly 20,000 people and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes in India.

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake destroyed over 1 million structures including historic buildings.

This was the first disaster that the newly formed ShelterBox team were able to respond to.

Working in partnership with local Rotary contacts, we supported families with emergency shelter aid and other essential items.

Men unloading shelterboxes in India
Boxes being unloaded in India, following the devastating earthquake in Gujarat.

Boxing Day Tsunami, 2004


People unloading shelterboxes in Indonesia

On Boxing Day, 26 December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed nearly a quarter of a million people and left nearly 2 million people homeless.

People were swept away by the monster waves, which arrived rapidly and with little warning.

The deadly tsunami devasted the nearest coastlines of Indonesia, but also caused destruction across the coasts of Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, even making it as far as Somalia, the Seychelles and South Africa. A total of 14 countries were affected.

The disaster was caused by a type of earthquake called a ‘megathrust earthquake’, which forces one of the earth’s tectonic plates to be thrust under another. It was the fourth largest recorded earthquake, measuring more than magnitude 9, and caused a 1,200km section of the earth’s crust to shift beneath the Indian ocean.

The resulting tsunamis reached 20m in height at landfall in parts of Aceh, Indonesia, and travelled at speeds of up to 800km per hour. In some places, the waves spread 3km inland carrying debris and seawater with them. They devasted everything they hit, and retreating waters eroded whole shorelines.

A massive surge of support from around the world for the people affected by this huge disaster enabled the ShelterBox team to launch its largest-ever response in the organisation’s short history. Working closely with local Rotary partners in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, we provided emergency shelter aid and other essential items to thousands of affected families.

Haiti earthquake, 2010


On 12 January 2010, a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, bringing chaos and destruction.

The initial shock of 7.0 magnitude was quickly followed by aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5. Aftershocks continued to batter the area throughout the following weeks.

The devastation was on a scale previously unimaginable – homes were turned to rubble, families were separated, livelihoods were completely destroyed.

We were working in Haiti eighteen months before the earthquake struck, delivering emergency aid after a series of hurricanes left thousands of families homeless.

Following the devastating earthquake in 2010, over 28,000 families were supported with essential ShelterBox aid. This included tents to provide families with emergency shelter to start recovering, kitchen sets to allow them to cook and eat together again, and mosquito nets to protect against Insect-borne diseases like malaria.

More about the earthquake

People standing amongst rubble in Haiti after a powerful earthquake

Japan earthquake and tsunami, 2011


ShelterBox tents stand amongst rubble in Japan

On 11 March 2011, an earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, measuring 9 magnitude ravaged Japan. The earthquake triggered a tsunami with giant waves of up to 10 meters.

Aftershocks also hit the area the next day, at 6.2 magnitude. Over 20,000 people lost their lives, and over half a million were made homeless.

Similar to the Boxing Day tsunami, it was caused by a type of earthquake called a ‘megathrust earthquake’, which forces one of the earth’s tectonic plates to be thrust under another and shifting the earth’s crust.

Working with local Rotary groups, ShelterBox worked throughout the affected coastal areas in Japan, providing emergency shelter aid as well as winter gloves, scarves and hats to help people survive the freezing conditions.

Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines, 2013


On Friday 8 November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, causing catastrophic damage.

With winds of 195mph and waves up to 7ms, the typhoon is still the largest storm ever recorded to make landfall. It is the deadliest on record in the Philippines, with more than 7,000 people losing their lives.

A total of around 11 million people were affected, with 6 million people displaced. Six million workers lost their source of income when agriculture and boats were destroyed.

ShelterBox’s response was large and complex, helping communities across seven different islands, working to ensure that emergency shelter aid and other essential equipment reached thousands of vulnerable families.

Man carrying a shelterkit with a child next to him

Explore more


Our history

Explore a timeline of our biggest responses and defining moments over the last 20 years

Celebrating 20 Years of ShelterBox

Read on to see how it all began and take a look at what you’ve helped us achieve.

QUIZ: 20 years of ShelterBox

Take the quiz to learn about some of the most memorable responses in our history.

Our impact

Meet the people your support is helping

Where we're working

Get the latest updates from the field and discover where we’re supporting communities around the world in the aftermath of natural disaster and conflict.

The ShelterBox founding story

In 2000, the idea for ShelterBox was hit upon by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in Cornwall, when Rotary encouraged members to come up with projects to mark the Millennium.

20 Years of Shelter gallery

Explore the gallery of images from some of the most memorable responses in our 20-year history.