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Pajiba Storytellers: 10 Man-Made or Natural Disasters that Would Make Awesome, Bad-Ass Backdrops for a Hollywood Disaster Movie

By Dustin Rowles | Pajiba Storytellers | November 9, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Pajiba Storytellers | November 9, 2011 |

I’ve never really understood the appeal of disaster movies. They’re usually just an excuse to blow up shit and watch a lot of people die so we can somehow find solace in the fact that two attractive people escaped. Nobody cares about the other 100 or 2,000 or 50,000 people that died, so long as chiseled abs and big boobs can share a big wet kiss in the end. Roland Emmerich loves this shit. It’s right up Michael Bay’s alley, and well, it would suit James Cameron well, especially since Titanic is the king of disaster films, although God knows why anyone liked that movie.

Anyway, as part of Storytellers Day here on Pajiba, I thought we could gander at 10 disasters, natural or man made, that could provide wonderful backdrops for more stories told about two attractive people escaping real-world disasters. To my knowledge, I don’t think that movies have been made incorporating any of these 10 disasters. But there are a lot of movies in the world, and my memory isn’t capable of remembering even the the movies that I’ve seen. So, maybe a few of these have already been incorporated (and I know the Molasses Flood was central to a great Dennis Lehane book from a few years ago).

Check these disasters out. You can start to picture the movie trailers in your mind.

The Great Molasses Flood: A large molasses storage tank burst in the North End of Boston in 1919, sending a wave of molasses up to 15 feet high through the streets at 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. People were picked up and hurled into the air, buildings were knocked off their foundations, and several blocks were flooded up to two to three feet. Search and rescue spent four days locating survivors, while many of the dead were unrecognizable, buried under a brown glaze. It would take 87,000 man hours to clean up the molasses.

The Bhopal Disaster: A gas leak in India in 1984, caused in part by poor working conditions and an attempt to reduce expenses, created a gas cloud that killed an estimated 3,000 plus people. Another 8,000 more would die in the weeks following from exposure to the gas.

Korba chimney collapse: In 2009, construction workers had built a chimney that had reached nearly 800 feet. During a thunderstorm, the workers took shelter from the store in a nearby store room when a lightning bolt struck the chimney and caused it to collapse, At least 45 deaths were recorded, including one man who was attacked and thrashed to death for unknown reasons.

The London Beer Flood: In 1814, a vat containing 135,000 imperial gallons of beer ruptured, caused other vats to rupture, and creating a domino effect of 323,000 gallons of beer to gush out onto the streets. The wave of beer crushed two homes, and left eight dead, some of whom drowned and one of whom died of alcohol poisoning.

Seest fireworks disaster (*The Michael Bay Special): In the city of Seest in Denmark, in 2004, a fireworks factory exploded killing one person, and injuring several others. Two thousand people had to be evacuated , fire and rescue vehicles were destroyed, and 355 homes were damaged in a series of violent explosions.

Bangladesh Hail Storm: In 1986, a hail storm rained down on Bangladesh with ice balls around 2 pounds and 7 inches around, killing 92 people and leveling entire homes.

Lake Nyos: In Cameroon in 1986, there was a sudden outgassing of 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide in Lake Nyos. The carbon dioxide cloud, which rose at 62 mph, spread across the area, displacing the oxygen and burning and suffocating 1700 people and 3,500 livestock.

The St. Pierre Snake Invasion: An otherwise inconsequential volcano in 1902, St Pierre, Martinique, led to over 100 angry venomous snakes to slither down into the village, killing 50 people and a shitton of animals before … get this … the giant fucking street cats killed them. Not that it mattered, soon thereafter, the volcano really exploded, obliterating the entire city, leaving only two of its 30,000 inhabitants alive.

The Chandka Forest Elephant Stampede: During a heat wave in India’s Chandka Forest in 1971, the elephants got so pissed off and agitated by the heat and the lack of water that they flipped out, stampeding through five villages and killing 24.

1923 Great Kantō earthquake: In 1923 in Japan, an earthquake produced a f*cking FIRE WHIRL that killed over 38,000 people in 15 minutes. And if you, like me, have never heard of a FIRE WHIRL, they look like this:


Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Storytellers: Salvatore Giuliano, The Lost Corleone | Storytellers: Black Bart, The Scourge of Every Sea