A sudden calamitous event, causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, like a flood, a tornado, an airplane crash, or an earthquake. This is not only a documentary but a live account of dramatic events in real time. In this unique 13-part series you’ll be an eyewitness to some of the greatest disasters of the last 100 years and you will have a rare opportunity to compare disasters across time and distance and decide which you think is the worst.
Desperate Hours: Volcanoes
Desperate Hours: Earthquakes
The Earth’s crust – “so solid beneath our feet, then you feel something moving, pounding deep down in the ground. The pounding gets stronger. Instinctively you know it is an earthquake and you stop everything you are doing and just stay still, concentrated, feeling the ground, hoping it stops pounding. It doesn’t, it gets stronger. You see objects moving around you, everything starts shaking. Now you feel panic; get out of the building or go under a table. The building is moving, you can hear the walls shrieking, you wonder if it will fall apart and bury you alive.” These are the words of a survivor. This episode includes the devastating South East Asian tsunami in 2004 caused by a massive earthquake deep underwater that killed 150,000 people; the Tangshan earthquake that killed 250,000 in 1976; the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 that killed 100,000.
Desperate Hours: Geological Disasters
Every year millions of people experience the effects of geological disasters. New methods of predicting and preventing such events seem to be helping, but are nowhere near perfect. In 6 seconds an avalanche can reach 130 kilometers per hour; once the snow stops moving it freezes like cement, trapping victims; a mudslide or landslide is similar to an avalanche, a fast moving fl ow of mud, water, boulders, rocks, trees and even cars. Quicksand; gigantic sinkholes; volcanic lahars; we show you the dramatic results of nature at its most merciless.
Desperate Hours: Nuclear And Industrial Disasters
Countless lives have been lost down the ages in natural disasters but there is something uniquely terrifying when death and disaster strike from the hand of man. Over 8,000 people died and over 500,000 continue to suffer the effects of a gas leak in Bophal, India, acknowledged as the worst ever industrial disaster. The Gulf of Mexico is still recovering from the BP oil spill. The terrifying power of the atom lights homes throughout the world as it simultaneously strikes fear into our hearts.
Desperate Hours: Epidemics
As the world welcomed peace in 1918 and the end of the slaughter that killed 37 million people, Spanish Flu struck and the next 2 years saw twice as many dead. In 1956 despite vastly improved modern medicine Asian flu killed 2 million people worldwide. In 1976 a deadly new virus appeared in the Congo, killing 90% of those affected, there is no cure for the Ebola virus and countries surrounding the current outbreak in Guinea declared emergencies and closed their borders.
Desperate Hours: Wild Wind
Cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, these storms take many names but they all pose the same threat. Up to 600 miles wide, a huge vortex with a calm eye at its centre, and with wind speeds up to 200 mph, they start life over warm water and on reaching land; wreak enormous havoc on life and property. Female hurricanes cause more death and destruction than male hurricanes according to the results of a recent study. Researchers wonder if people relax their guard and take fewer precautions when it’s a woman, leading to greater loss of life. We bring you unique footage from hurricane Katrina which in 2005 almost destroyed New Orleans; the 1970 cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that claimed 500,000 lives; the tornado that killed 1,300 in Bangladesh in 1989; and more.
Desperate Hours: Disasters At Sea
In April 1912 the world was stunned by the loss of the Titanic, 1,500 perished on the biggest, safest, most expensive passenger liner ever built. Despite all the advances in design and construction, the sea remains a hostile environment in the 21st century and disaster struck again when the ferry Joola sank off the coast of Gambia in 2002 with the loss of over 1,800 lives.
Desperate Hours: Disasters In The Air
Ever since Icarus flew too close to the sun and paid with his life man has defi ed gravity, and such defi ance has a terrible cost. Millions cross the globe safely every day but unforgettable footage of the Turkish airlines fl ight that crashed in Paris in 1974 killing all 346 on board; the Tupolev 154 that fell from the sky in 2006 killing all 170 on board; and the deadliest aviation disaster of all when two 737s collided on the ground in Tenerife in 1977 killing 583 passengers; reminds us how close we are to disaster each time we fasten our seat belts.
Desperate Hours: Road Disasters
Every year over a million people die and almost 50 million are injured in traffi c accidents; and the number continues to rise. Children and young people are the worst affected, with road traffi c injuries now the single biggest source of fatality among 10- to 24-year-olds worldwide. In 2004, the last year for which comprehensive data is available, road traffi c injuries killed more 5- to 14-year-olds than malaria, diarrhea and HIV and Aids.
Desperate Hours: Fire
In this installment, we turn up the heat to examine a natural phenomenon that is both a friend, and a foe to humankind. Some 400 thousand years ago, some argue even sooner, our ancestors had learned how to create and control fire….. a step vital to human development. We won't be going back quite that far on this episode, but we do travel back in time to remind ourselves that dangerous and deadly fires are a fact of life, as immutable as the wind, the rain or the seasons. They can happen anywhere: a smart departmental store in the center of Brussels, a nightclub on Rhode Island where a band called Great White came to play. Their special effects pyrotechnics show caught fire alright. When it did, it killed 100 people, injuring dozens more. Whatever the time and place, firefighters are still expected to go rushing into a burning building as everyone else goes rushing out. Firefighters are required to pull heavy lengths of hose, to scale stairs while carrying giant power tools, and lift 35-foot long wooden ladders.
Desperate Hours: Environmental Disasters
Desperate Hours: Floods
In this instalment, we batten down the hatches, and run for dry land, as we look at the damage a little water can do, or rather, a great deal of it. The European Union’s 'Floods Directive ' defines a flood as "a covering by water of land not normally covered by water". But that description simply doesn't do justice to the terror unleashed by raging currents and flash flooding. Natural disasters will be with us for a long time to come; but the death and destruction caused by Brazilian floods and landslides, the flooding after Hurricane Katrina and in Northern India, could all have been reduced by environmental awareness in building codes, and better coordinated relief efforts. In the massive flooding after the Tsunami of December 26th, 2004, hundreds of thousands were killed in minutes, and millions lost their homes, as wave after destructive wave crashed into the coastlines of some 11 Indian Ocean countries. Environmentalists argue another factor causing floods is urbanization. By replacing grass and dirt with buildings, roads and parking lots, insufficient soil is left, to soak up rainwater. When it does overflow, the results can be disastrous.
Disasters : We review the worst of the worst.
Desperate Hours: Volacanoes
Awesome manifestations of the fiery power locked deep within the Earth, Volcanoes are violent ruptures of the Earth’s surface, expelling molten lava, rocks, ash and toxic gases into the atmosphere. These flows of molten lava can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,250 degrees Celsius) capable of burning whole towns in their path. Mud flows from rapidly melting snow can strip mountains and valleys bare and bury towns. Dramatic footage includes the violent 1985 eruption in Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia that killed 25,000 people; the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991, one of the largest eruptions of the 20th century that caused worldwide temperatures to drop as it ejected 10 billion tones into the atmosphere.