Our planet has been tearing itself apart for billions of years – a giant tug of war between continents that creates and destroys mountains, canyons and coastlines. Liquid rock has blasted its way to the surface, generating catastrophic eruptions and volcanic winters. Cosmic rocks have impacted earth from space, causing mass extinction events – millennia on Earth with dark, toxic skies that only the deepest sea creatures could survive. Ice ages have come and gone, altering our climate and delivering ferocious storm systems.
Yet this is not just all in some dim and distant, pre-human past. Throughout human history our Earth has continued to shake, rock, flood, bury and boil us.
In this two hour special, National Geographic assesses the contenders for the worst natural disasters of all time – those events that had severe impact on human populations. As well as examining the deadliest, we will also explore the most powerful, the most wide-reaching and epoch-changing events. Each disaster is presented by a world renowned expert, who examines how they occurred, why they created such mayhem and what qualifies them as one of our Top Ten.
Eyewitness footage plays a part in telling the story of the most devastating natural disasters in recent times. Images of the Boxing Day tsunami shocked the world in 2004 – in total, nearly 240,000 people were killed in 14 different countries – an entire continent devastated by a single catastrophic event. We were reminded of nature’s fury again in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina battered the city of New Orleans. The scale of suffering that was broadcast onto television screens worldwide was simply inconceivable in a 21st Century First World country. National Geographic returns to the city to assess what was learnt from the disaster and whether it is protected from another hurricane of that size.
More recently, the world watched as a huge tsunami obliterated much of Japan’s northern coastline. Caught on camera phones across Japan, it was a sobering event for scientists worldwide, demonstrating that even with the most advanced coastal defenses in the world; no one is immune to the immense power of nature.
Natural disasters are not just a modern phenomenon; we travel 8,000 years back in history to investigate the story behind the Black Sea Flood. With unique access to archaeological remains, National Geographic uncovers the reasons behind the disaster which not only flooded 60,000 square miles of land but played a hand in the creation of different nations that today make up Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
In the spring of 1918, while thousands of soldiers were still dying in the trenches, an unusually virulent respiratory disease began to ravage army camps and hospitals. Now known to be a strain of the influenza A virus, the disease would quickly earn the nickname the Spanish flu. Historical archive provides a look into the life of soldiers fighting on the front line, unaware that in the twelve months that followed up to 100 million people would lose their lives to an enemy far worse that any human adversary. National Geographic speaks to scientist who explain just how deadly the influenza virus can be and that the question now is not if there will be another such pandemic, but when.
In this two hour special, our experts demonstrate that natural disasters are out of our control and will continue to ravage our planet, but we can learn from past events to minimize their impact when they strike again.
Tune into World’s Worst Natural Disasters tonight at 8P.