When It Hits the Fan/Specific Calamities/Historical events

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Events sorted chronologically[edit]

This section of the book lists disastrous events until the last century. We have intentionally not listed more recent events because they may be still under active dispute, badly attributed, too painful and in general still open to distinct interpretation and requiring further analysis.

20th century[edit]


  • 1985 Nevado del Ruiz Lahar disaster - The 'Volcán del Ruiz', had been for more than a century a dormant giant, which travelers in the Bogotá-Cali flights had the pleasure to observe, covered with a large snow cap.
With 5,389 m (17,780 ft), Nevado del Ruiz is the highest of the Colombian volcanoes in the Central Range of the Colombian Andes.
Although this volcano had caused lahars in 1595 and 1845, causing hundreds of deaths, the rich valley of Armero under the peak, was excellent agricultural land. The town of Armero grew for more than a century, without anyone remembering the old disasters.
Late in 1984, geologists began to notice small earthquakes and steam eruptions in the volcano. Although a network of monitoring devices was setup on the summit of the volcano, nothing would predict the terrible events that followed a year later.
In November 1985 the smoke from the summit of Nevado del Ruiz, was plainly visible, but both authorities and scientists alike didn't believe these were the preliminaries of a plynian pyroclastic eruption.
Despite the warnings local authorities in Armero, and state officials keep saying no eruption would follow, although a risk map was in place.
On the night of November 13, 1985, at around 3:00 pm there was an explosion and ashes fell over the region, but even then local authorities and priests in Armero asked the people to remain calm in their houses. However at 9:30 pm. the volcano, covered with storm clouds, erupted with rock ejection and pyroclastic discharges which melted the snow cap. Melted water and pyroclastic ashes and rocks mixed and produced a series of lahars, mud and rock slides along the rivers.
Just half an hour short of midnight on November 13, 1985 a massive Lahar caused by the eruption of the volcano, ran down the Lagunillas river, in central Colombia, and jumped in a 200 high wave of rocks, mud and debris over the town of Armero, 28,000 inhabitants. In the next 10 minutes close to 80% of Armero was destroyed. The death toll of both the lahar that hit Armero and other lahars was estimated at 21,000 deaths.


  • 1932 - Ukraine - Black Famine - A Man-Made Famine raged through Ukraine, the ethnic-Ukrainian region of northern Caucasus, and the lower Volga River region in 1932-33. Between 7 to 10 million people, mainly Ukrainians, starved to death.
Planned by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the main goal of this artificial famine was to break the spirit of the Ukrainian peasant farmer and to force them into collectivization. In 1932, the Soviets increased the grain procurement quota for Ukraine by 44%. Soviet law was quite clear - no grain could be given to feed the peasants until the quota was met, aware that this extraordinary high quota would result in a grain shortage leaving Ukrainian peasant unable to feed themselves.
When some peasants attempted to hide grain from the Soviet Government, Communist party officials with the aid of military troops and NKVD secret police units moved into the area. To insure Ukrainian peasants could not travel in search of food, an internal passport system was implemented to restrict movements.
While Ukrainians were starving, Ukrainian grain was collected and stored in grain elevators that were guarded by military units & NKVD secret police units.



Firefighters working to extinguish the General Slocum

19th century[edit]

18th century[edit]

This 1755 copper engraving shows the ruins of Lisbon in flames and a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbor.
  • 1755 Lisbon, Portugal earthquake - Took place on November 1, 1755, at 9:20 in the morning. It was one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in history, killing well over 70,000 people. The quake was followed by a tsunami and fire, resulting in the near total destruction of Lisbon.
The earthquake accentuated political tensions in Portugal and profoundly disrupted the country's 18th century colonial ambitions. The event was widely discussed by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in theodicy and in the philosophy of the sublime. The first to be studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, the quake signaled the birth of modern seismology. Geologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake approached magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, with an epicenter in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 km west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent.
The geological causes of this earthquake and the seismic activity in the region continue to be discussed and debated by contemporary scientists. Some geologists have suggested that the earthquake may indicate the early development of an Atlantic subduction zone, and the beginning of the closure of the Atlantic ocean.

17th century[edit]

16th century[edit]

15th century[edit]

14th century[edit]

  • Bubonic Plague The black death occurred in almost all of Europe, killing one third of the population. It was caused by a disease carried by fleas (and spread by rats) and transmitted to humans

1st Century[edit]

  • 79 Destruction of Pompeii & Herculaneum by eruption of Mount Vesuvius