A dramatic, archive based documentary series from the BBC. Amazing footage, stories and personal accounts of Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Avalanches, Floods and Volcanoes. Using a mixture of rare archive footage and dramatic 3D animated reconstructions, this series shows what happens when natural forces come into conflict with humans—with devastating results.
Each episode of this fascinating series focuses on one type of natural disaster, giving examples of some of the largest or most devastating in recent years. From volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons, avalanches and floods—to those that we humans may have more of a hand in, such as forest fires and landslides. Contains also previously unpublished footage from the Asian 2005 tsunami and the earthquake in China in 2008.
Produced by Nugus/Martin Productions Ltd. for BBC Worldwide
Part 1: Killer Volcanoes
A volcano is one of nature’s most devastating and unpredictable forces. Once it starts to erupt there is no power on earth which can stop it. Spewing great choking clouds of ash and smoke miles into the atmosphere, a violently erupting volcano can reshape the landscape. It can also kill hundreds (if not thousands of people) as deadly torrents of molten rock and superheated gas cascade down the side, overwhelming and destroying everything in their path. No matter how closely volcanoes are studied and monitored, they remain one of nature’s most volatile and destructive elements.
Part 2: When America Shook
This program examines some of the more notable earthquakes to have struck America, including one of the world’s best known disasters, the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Everyone knows that San Francisco could be hit by yet another even-more-devastating earthquake at any time. But no one knows when. Los Angeles (San Francisco’s west coast neighbor) is also constantly at risk, as are any number of smaller communities in the region. The reason is that they all sit on a 500-mile-long notorious geological fault line called the San Andreas Fault. Other parts of America have also been hit by earthquakes, in particular Alaska, which, in March 1964, experienced the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history and one of the greatest of the 20th century anywhere in the world. Further South, 8.000 people perished when, in September 1985, a massive earthquake devastated Mexico City.
Part 3: Shattered Countries
Earthquakes have the power to reduce towns to rubble, are unpredictable and unstoppable, and can also result in landslides and avalanches. The worst earthquake in 500 years occurred on 28 July 1976 when the Chinese city of Tangshan was destroyed, killing an estimated 250,000 people. This program looks at some of the world’s deadliest seismic events, ranging from Peru to Nicaragua and from Guatemala to India. Footage shows not only the effect of the earthquake, but also how emergency teams risk their own lives looking for survivors. Compelling graphics show how earthquakes start deep underground, sending shockwaves to the surface. It also explains why earthquakes are more likely to occur in certain parts of the world than others.
Part 4: Quakes from Hell
Generated deep underground or beneath the seabed, earthquakes have the power to change the face of the landscape, sometimes forever. This program describes how earthquakes work, using expert testimony and compelling graphics to show how they go on to cause such widespread death and destruction. It shows where they are most likely to occur, as well as explaining why it is impossible to predict, or forecast, precisely when they will strike. Four particularly devastating earthquakes are covered in detail: Armenia (1988), Japan (1995), Turkey (1999), and China in May 2008 when 70,000 people were killed, 375,000 injured and five million left homeless and destitute. Quakes From Hell is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand how earthquakes unleash such awesome power, how they are measured and how science is working to guard against them.
Part 5: Tsunami Killer Waves
Caused by earthquakes deep beneath the seabed or by landslides crashing down into the sea from a cliff or mountain, tsunamis have been wreaking havoc for millennia. Most of them occur along what is known as the Ring of Fire, a 30,000 mile-long arc of seismic activity encircling the Pacific Ocean. The tsunami that resulted in one of the world’s greatest-ever natural disasters, took place in the Indian Ocean. On 26 December 2004, a massive undersea earthquake took place off the coast of Indonesia. This set off a series of tsunamis, which fanned out across the Indian Ocean, hitting around a dozen countries. Known as the Boxing Day Tsunami, it resulted in about 250,000 deaths and created havoc and destruction on an unprecedented scale. There is nothing that can be done to prevent a tsunami, but improved warning systems give scientists a better idea where and when they will strike.
Part 6: Killer Cyclones
Cyclones, also known as hurricanes, are said to take more lives in the Tropics than any other kind of natural disaster. In mid-November 1970, a massive cyclone swept in off the Bay of Bengal. It tore into the poverty-stricken country of Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) causing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Twenty-one years later, in April 1991, Bangladesh was hit by yet another great cyclone. Bangladesh is hit by at least once a year by a major cyclone. In May 2008, more than 140,000 people perished when Myanmar (previously known as Burma) was overwhelmed by a great cyclone. It would turn out to be Myanmar’s worst-ever natural disaster. The country’s repressive military government refused to accept any overseas help, leading to the accusation that it was turning a horrific natural disaster into a man-made catastrophe.
Part 7: Hurricanes from Hell
Sweeping in from the sea, these violent weather systems can travel thousands of miles, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. Vast areas of the landscape are swamped with tidal surges of up to 20 feet high, deluged with torrential rain, and battered by ferocious winds, often exceeding 100 miles an hour. Buildings are flattened and trees uprooted, while boats, cars and other vehicles are thrown around like a child’s toys. Some of the world’s worst hurricanes have occurred in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Given innocent-sounding names such as Hugo, Andrew or Mitch, they have wreaked chaos on an awesome scale, wiped out whole towns and villages, killed thousands of people and left many more homeless and destitute. But one hurricane in particular stands out: Hurricane Katrina. In August 2005, Katrina overwhelmed New Orleans in America’s Deep South, killing nearly 2000 people. It would be marked not only as one of the deadliest hurricanes on record, but also the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
Part 8: Tornadoes and Twisters
Tornadoes are one of nature’s deadliest forces, unmatched in fury, speed and destructive power. Over the centuries, tornadoes have wrought destruction on a huge scale and cost a great many lives. This program takes a look at some of the most devastating twister storms to hit the planet in the last 100 years. From the world’s worst twister (which struck Daultipur in Bangladesh in 1989), to the most expensive tornado in history (the 1999 Oklahoma Tornado which caused S1.4 billion worth of damage), this program explores tornadoes through extraordinary footage and remarkable true stories from those who have survived. Discover how tornadoes are formed in super cell thunderstorms and how meteorologists use science to save lives, predicting twister attacks before they happen. Learn how 21st-century technology aids our understanding of this extreme weather phenomenon, and meet the storm-chasers who thrill at getting up close and personal with tornadoes. This journey into the swirling heart of the tornado reveals the raw power and awesome, deadly, beauty of nature at its most ferocious.
Part 9: Extreme Weather
Weather is uncontrollable. Over time we have learned to live with storms, heat waves, droughts, and prolonged periods of extreme cold. As this documentary explains, they are all examples of extreme or unusual weather—nature at its deadliest and most destructive. In March 1993, the US Eastern Seaboard was hit with a massive snow storm that became known as the Storm of the Century. Two years later, Chicago was caught up in a five-day nightmare of heat and humidity. In 1998, prolonged floods contaminated water and ruined crops in Bangladesh, and months of drought can result in devastating famines and thousands of deaths in countries like Ethiopia or the Sudan. Extreme weather can take many forms, and has the power to wreak havoc on a huge scale.
Part 10: Devastating Landslides
When vast amounts of rock, earth and mud pour downhill, landslides destroy whole towns and villages. In 1968, 20,000 people lost their lives in Peru as the side of a mountain broke free; and in 1985, a massive mudslide triggered by a volcano in Columbia claimed at least 23,000 victims. More than 30,000 people were killed when a strip of Venezuelan coastline was devastated by a 50-foot-high tide of mud and rock. Landslides are less frequent in Europe, but in 1966, a coal slag heap in south Wales suddenly gave way and engulfed the village of Aberfan, killing more than 100 children. This film examines geological, development, and climate factors contributing to landslides and explains why little can be done to prevent them.