Wars were not the only dramatic events to effect the development of Basseterre. Natural disasters played a very significant roll.The 1642 and 1667 hurricanes destroyed all the houses on the island. In 1667 French Governor Laurent reported
I hold myself obliged to inform you that this island is in the most deplorable state that can be imagined and that the inhabitants could not have suffered a greater loss, or been more unfortunate except they had been taken by the English. There is not a house or sugar works standing, and they cannot hope to make any sugar for fifteen months to come. As for the manioc, which is the bread of the country, there is not one left, and they are more than a year in growing … I assure you that if peace is not made, or men-of-war sent to this country to facilitate the bringing of cassava from the other islands, that the inhabitants and troops will die of famine. (Southey, Chronological History of the West Indies Vol.2 p. 78)
It was estimated that the hurricane of 31st August 1772 caused £500 000 worth of damage on St. Kitts.
Other destructive hurricanes occurred on the 9th September 1821, the 17th August 1827, 12 August 1835, 21st August 1871, 12 September 1876, 7 August 1899, 28 August 1924, 13 Sept 1928, 17 September 1989 (Hugo) , 5 Sept 1995 (Luis), 15 Sept 1995 (Marilyn), 21 September 1998 (Georges), and 18 November 1999 (Lenny). A listing of storms that passed over the island between 1851 and 2008 was produced by the Caribbean Hurricane Network and can be found at http://stormcarib.com/climatology/TKPK_all_isl.htm
On the 6th of April 1690 an earthquake caused serious damage throughout St. Kitts. An eye witness account of this earthquake can be found at http://www.uwiseismic.com/Downloads/EqEC_1690_document.pdf
In 1974 an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 struck the Leeward Islands causing significant damage.
The University of the West Indies, Seismic Research Centre published a listing of the major earthquakes of the Eastern Caribbean at http://www.uwiseismic.com/General.aspx?id=16
Major flooding continues to torment the inhabitants of Basseterre. Residents of College Street and Westbourne Ghaut become very cautious when rain fall shows no sign of letting up. Significant floods seem to happen at least once in every century with the most damaging occurring in 1792, 1880, 1998.
Fires were a constant threat even in peacetime. On the 4th September 1776 a fire caused loss of property and it was followed only a day later by a hurricane. At the meeting of the St. Kitts Council of the 30th September 1776 approved a message of congratulations to George III on the birth of a daughter which also contained a description of the state of the town.
The most considerable and most opulent part of Basseterre, the capital of our island, the seat of commerce and the magazine from whence the merchants supplied our plantations hath been destroyed with all the stores of provision in it by a dreadful and irrestible [sic] fire, so rapid and destructive in its progress that the security of life admitted of little attention to preservation of property. Scarcely had the afflicted inhabitants recovered from their consternation, when it pleased Divine providence to send an additional calamity, as violent in its operation and injurious in its consequence to the landed as the preceding one was to the commercial interest. A dreadful storm accompanied with astonishing torrents, unprecedented in the memory of the oldest resident amongst us, has destroyed large tracts of our land and swept away almost all the provision in our ground. By this heavy visitation a large number of Your Majesty’s commercial and other faithful subjects, before happy in the exercise of honest industry have lost their whole property and a town once the abode of content and affluence is not become the residence of poverty, desolation and ruin.
Samuel Augustus Mathew wrote that, in the days after the disaster, some people suspected that looting had been carried out slaves. In his book or an The Lying Hero, answer to J. B. Moreton’s Manners and Customs in the West Indies his description of the searches for stolen goods show a man who was in favour of slavery but more significantly it gives insights into what the enslaved considered important.
The great fire of 1867 left damage throughout Basseterre. It started on the late in the night of the 2nd July at a bakery that was located on the corner of Central Street and West Independence Square Street. It quickly spread to the Bay Road and as far west as Salt Pond Alley. Before the night was out the whole of Cayon Street, west to the police station had been destroyed. Many people were homeless and food was scarce as most businesses had lost significant inventory to the flames.
Although conflagrations like the one of 1867 have not taken place since, a number of localized blazes have claimed property in Basseterre since then. A fire destroyed the Losada business on Bank Street in 1968. The structure that housed it was never rebuilt and the TDC parking lot now stands in its place. The Court House was burnt to the ground in 1982 and rebuilt in 1995.