Mt St Helens(84830)

There's nothing like a disaster to remind humans of how little control we actually have. Whether it's a natural event like a fire or flood or a crisis of our own making, the devastation can destroy generations.

At the very least, disasters disrupt airports and wreak havoc on the travel insurance industry. But truly devasting disasters result in losses of life, property and economy—something some communities can never recover from.

Volcanic Eruption

Mount St. Helens(84813)

Before: The icy peak of Mount St. Helens towers 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) over old-growth forest.

After: The 1980 eruption destroyed the entire north face and top 1300 feet of the mountain. Hot clouds of lava, ash, rocks and gases hurtled down the volcano at speeds of up to 500 miles (800 kilometres) an hour. The eruption killed 57 people, over 7000 big game animals and 12 million fish, and damaged over 200 houses, 185 miles (298 km) and highway and 15 miles (25 km) of railroad. It also leveled hundreds of square miles of old-growth forest, drastically changing the region’s ecosystem.

Nuclear Accident


Before: A typical day in Pripyat, population 50,000. This Ukrainian city was less than two miles away from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

After: On April 26, 1986, reactor number four exploded. Thirty people died in the blast, but the reactor burned for 10 days. Radiation spread across tens of thousands of square miles in the northern Ukraine, southern Belarus and Russia’s Bryanck region. But even though the fallout was 400 times more radioactive than Hiroshima, Pripyat wasn’t evacuated until the next morning. Over a thousand buses lined up, and the city was empty by 5 pm. Today, the once-bustling city is frozen in time, an overgrown, radioactive ghost town.

Plastic Surgery

Jocelyn Wildenstein’s Face

Before: Jocelyn Wildenstein

After: The Bride of Wildenstein. Jocelyn reportedly dropped $4 million on plastic surgery after marrying billionaire art-dealer heir Alec Wildenstein. She based her new look on exotic wild cats, which her husband loved. The more feline she looked, the more he would love her...or so she thought. They divorced in 1999.



Before: January 9th, 2009. The Venezuelan church had been under water since a hydroelectic dam was built in 1985.

After: February 21, 2010. Just one year of severe drought exposed this 82-foot-tall (25-metre-tall) church. The dam’s reservoir was empty, and the dam itself was only operating at 7% capacity. A scary thought considering Venezuela gets about 68% of its power from hydroelectricity.

Atomic Bomb


Before: A model of Hiroshima, population 350,000, as it would have looked moments before the bombing on August 6th, 1945.

After: A city flattened by a massive shockwave. The atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” was dropped from a height of 31,000 ft (9,400 m). It detonated at 600 m, releasing explosive energy that destroyed buildings, set off a raging firestorm and bathed everything in deadly radiation. Over 70,000 people were thought to be killed immediately, with possibly another 70,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950.



Before: Beautiful Arahama Beach, just south of Sendai, Japan.

After: On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 M earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami that traveled up to 10 km inland and inundated an area of approximately 561 km2 (217 sq mi). It left 350,000 people homeless and killed almost 20,000.