Seconds From Disaster

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Seconds from Disaster
Logo of Seconds From Disaster.png
Title card used between 2011 and 2018
Genre Documentary
Based on Historically relevant man-made and natural disasters from the 20th and 21st centuries
Narrated by Ashton Smith
Richard Vaughan
Peter Guinness
Country of origin United States / United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 69
Running time 30/40–50 minutes
Production company(s) National Geographic Society
Darlow Smithson Productions
Distributor National Geographic Channel
Original network National Geographic Channel
Original release July 6, 2004 (2004-07-06) – December 29, 2012 (2012-12-29), February 15, 2018 (2018-02-15) – Present (Present)
Preceded by Seismic Seconds
Followed by Critical Situation
External links

Seconds from Disaster is a US/UK-produced documentary television programme that investigates historically relevant man-made and natural disasters from the 20th and 21st centuries. Each episode aims to explain a single incident[1] by analyzing the causes and circumstances that ultimately effected the disaster. The program uses re-enactments, interviews, testimonies, and CGI to analyze the sequence of events second-by-second for the audience.

Seconds from Disaster was first broadcast on the National Geographic Channel in 2004 and originally consisted of 45 episodes over three seasons. Following its original conclusion in 2007, the show was put on a four-year hiatus and later replaced with Critical Situation. In 2011, National Geographic revived the show and aired another 22 episodes over three seasons until the following year. Narrators of the show are Ashton Smith (American narrator for seasons 1 to 3), Richard Vaughan (British narrator for every season except 3), and Peter Guinness (British narrator for season 3).

The show was revived again, with the first episode of season 7 airing on 15 February 2018.[2] Its return has been paired with the 17th Season UK Premiere of Air Crash Investigation, which aired back to back beginning on 15 February at 8PM on National Geographic UK’s channel.[3]


Seconds from Disaster is characterised by an emphasis on chronological sequencing (in accordance with the show's name), the use of CGI technology and its blueprint-like CGI format. The show has little or no dialogue for the actors in the re-enactments, but instead is almost entirely dominated by the narrator.

Each episode begins with a chronological re-enactment of the disaster, which is always cut into several scenes displaying critical moments in the unfolding of the disaster with a clock appearing at the beginning of each scene. After the sequence of events, the show "winds back" the scenes to analyse the causes and events leading up to it. The series uses blueprint-formatted CGI in every episode to reveal the anatomy of the disaster and the structures involved but in season 3, the blue formatting of the CGI is not used on the background and is replaced with a white background. From season 4 onwards, they used a sepia-like background.

The show concludes with the original disaster scenes being "rewound" and played again; but this time the clock is replaced by a countdown timer and the conclusions reached from the analysis being put together with the sequence. Most often, the show finishes with a short moment of sentimentality (where those involved often speak of their emotions on the disaster) followed by the technological advances made to prevent similar disasters from happening again.


By original broadcast date[edit]

National Geographic Channel has broadcast many episodes under multiple titles. The title currently or most recently listed on the NGC Calendar is shown first. Alternate titles are shown in parentheses.

Season 1 (2004)[edit]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
1 1 July 6 "Crash of the Concorde"
Air France Flight 4590 July 25, 2000 Aircraft crash
On July 25, 2000 a Concorde supersonic jet operating as Air France Flight 4590 takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport. A piece of metal from another aircraft left on the runway impales the Concorde's tyre, which explodes. Debris is flung into the wing, causing a fire and the Concorde's crash into a hotel in Gonesse, killing the 100 passengers and nine crew members on board, as well as four others in the hotel.
2 2 July 13 "Tunnel Inferno" Mont Blanc Tunnel fire March 24, 1999 Vehicle fire
A truck carrying margarine and flour catches fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which connects France and Italy under Mont Blanc; 39 people are killed in the inferno.
3 3 July 20 "The Bomb in Oklahoma City"
(Oklahoma City)
Oklahoma City bombing April 19, 1995 Terrorist attack (bombing)
In retaliation against the U.S. government, whom Timothy McVeigh blames for the Waco Siege two years earlier, McVeigh parks a truck carrying a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Minutes later it explodes, destroying the building and killing 168 people.
4 4 July 27 "Fire on the Star"
(Fire on board the Star)
M/S Scandinavian Star Fire April 7, 1990 Ship fire
An arsonist sets a fire on Deck 3 of the Frederikshavn, Denmark-bound M/S Scandinavian Star, loaded with passengers and cars at Oslo, Norway. 158 people on board die from smoke inhalation and another person passes away in hospital from his injuries, bringing the total of deaths to 159.
5 5 August 3 "Derailment at Eschede"
(High Speed Train Crash)
Eschede train disaster June 3, 1998 Train derailment
A wheel of the InterCity Express (ICE) No. 884 'Wilhelm Konrad Röntgen' fails during travel in Eschede, Germany. The train derails and collides with a bridge, killing 101 people and injuring 105.
6 6 August 10 "Wreck of the Sunset Limited" 1993 Big Bayou Canot train wreck September 22, 1993 Train derailment
After one of a string of barges hit a support of a bridge in Big Bayou Canot, the Sunset Limited (an Amtrak train) derails as it crosses the bridge, resulting in its collapse and the deaths of 47 people.
7 7 August 17 "Meltdown in Chernobyl" Chernobyl disaster April 26, 1986 Nuclear disaster
An explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant kills 56 people, threatens the health of thousands more and causes a major environmental disaster.
8 8 August 24 "Inferno in Guadalajara"
(Inferno at Guadalajara)
Guadalajara petrol explosions April 22, 1992 Subterranean explosions
Days after residents of Guadalajara, Mexico complained of a foul smell, a series of gasoline-fueled explosions in the sewers kills 206 people.
9 9 August 31 "Fire on the Ski Slope" Kaprun disaster November 11, 2000 Tunnel fire
A funicular train catches fire as it travels through a tunnel at the Kaprun Ski Resort, Austria, killing 155 people; 12 people survive.
10 10 October 5 "Explosion in the North Sea" Piper Alpha disaster July 6, 1988 Oil platform explosions
A series of explosions and fires on the Piper Alpha, an oil platform 110 miles off the coast of Scotland that had been converted to natural gas production, results in the deaths of 167 people and the collapse of the platform.
11 11 October 12 "Flood at Stava Dam"
(Flood at Stava)
Collapse of Val di Stava dam July 19, 1985 Dam collapse and consequent flood
Two dams above the village of Stava in northern Italy collapse, causing an ensuing mudslide and flood down the Stava River valley that kills 268 people in the village below.
12 12 October 19 "Collision on the Runway" Tenerife airport disaster March 27, 1977 Aircraft collision on runway
At Tenerife North Airport, in the Canary Islands, KLM Flight 4805, a Boeing 747 trying to take off through fog, strikes Pan Am Flight 1736, another Boeing 747 that was still on the runway. Both aircraft explode, killing 583 people.
13 13 October 26 "Pentagon 9/11"
(Pentagon 9-11)

(Pentagon Plane Crash)

American Airlines Flight 77 September 11, 2001 Aircraft hijacking and intentional crash into building
As the World Trade Center in New York City burns after being hit by two hijacked aircraft, another hijacked aircraft is deliberately flown into The Pentagon, killing all 64 people on board and 125 on the ground.

Season 2 (2005–2006)[edit]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
14 1 June 28, 2005 "Space Shuttle Columbia"
(Columbia's Last Flight)
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster February 1, 2003 Space shuttle disintegration
As the Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on a 16-day mission, a piece of insulating foam breaks off the external fuel tank and damages the left wing of the shuttle. As it enters the Earth's atmosphere during the return trip, Columbia disintegrates under the massive heat, killing all seven astronauts on board.
15 2 July 5, 2005 "Alpine Tsunami" Galtür avalanche February 23, 1999 Powder snow avalanche
At the Austrian alpine village of Galtür, snow on the mountains surrounding the village build up. Due to the changing temperature during the month, a strong but brittle layer of ice forms under the snow. On the day of the disaster, the ice layer collapses and the building ice bank slips down the slope and forms a powder avalanche. Two minutes later, it hits Galtur and buries 57 people in the snow, killing 31 of them.
16 3 July 12, 2005 "Motorway Plane Crash"
(Freeway Plane Crash)
Kegworth air disaster January 8, 1989 Aircraft crash
British Midland Flight 092, a two-month-old Boeing 737–400, takes-off from Heathrow Airport in London, heading for Belfast. While en route the aircraft's left engine suffers a fan blade failure. Changes in cabin air intake design and engine performance gauges cause the pilot to shut down the wrong engine and prepare for an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport which is just across the M1 motorway at Kegworth. On approach to the airport the damaged left engine fails completely and then catches fire. The crew tries to glide the aircraft to the runway but it bounces over the M1 and crashes on the embankment of the motorway, killing 47 people.
17 4 July 26, 2005 "Mount St. Helens Eruption" 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens May 18, 1980 Volcanic eruption, massive landslide, and volcanic lahars
Mount St. Helens in the countryside of Washington erupts for the first time in 123 years, killing 57 people.
18 5 August 16, 2005 "Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster"
(Capsized in the North Sea)
Herald of Free Enterprise disaster March 6, 1987 Ship capsize
The British car ferry M/S Herald of Free Enterprise departs the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium. The crew accidentally left the bow doors open and water enters the car deck, causing the ferry to capsize, taking the lives of 193 passengers and crew.
19 6 August 30, 2005 "Kobe Earthquake"
(Killer Quake)
1995 earthquake in Kobe January 17, 1995 Earthquake
The Japanese city of Kobe is rocked by the Great Hanshin earthquake, which destroys most of its buildings. Many traditional houses collapse due to the heavy roofs and weak walls. Liquefaction occurs at the coastal and port areas of Kobe. 6,434 people die in what is then Japan's worst peacetime disaster.
20 7 September 13, 2005 "Crash Landing at Sioux City"
(Crash Landing in Sioux City)
United Airlines Flight 232 July 19, 1989 Aircraft crash
United Airlines Flight 232, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, loses hydraulic pressure after the tail-mounted no. 2 engine's fan rotor splits and disintegrates. The only working controls are the throttles, which can only allow right-hand turns. The pilots try to land at Sioux City, Iowa. As the DC-10 descends towards the runway at six times the normal descent rate, it rolls right just above the ground. The DC-10 crashes and explodes into a fireball, killing 111 of the 285 people on board.
21 8 September 20, 2005 "The Bali Bombing"
(Disco Bombing)
2002 Bali bombings October 12, 2002 Terrorist attacks (three bombings)
Bombers in Bali attempt to detonate bombs in three different places. The first, a suicide bomb, is detonated in a small nightclub across the road from another nightclub, the Sari Club. A second bomb, a truck filled with explosives parked outside the Sari Club explodes 15 seconds after the first. Less than a minute later, a third bomb detonates outside the United States Consulate. The total death toll is 202.
22 9 September 27, 2005 "Hotel Collapse Singapore"
(Hotel Collapse)
Hotel New World disaster March 15, 1986 Building collapse
Hotel New World, a one-star budget hotel located in Singapore's Little India district, collapses due to growing microcracks in the failing structural columns. The cracks are caused by the additional weight put on the hotel. After a seven-day rescue operation, 17 people are saved, but 33 perish.
23 10 October 18, 2005 "TWA 800"
(TWA Flight 800)
(The Last Flight of TWA 800)
Trans World Airlines Flight 800 July 17, 1996 Aircraft crash
TWA Flight 800 leaves New York for Paris 80 minutes late. Only 12 minutes into the flight, there are short circuits in electrical wires that cause ignition of vaporised jet fuel in the center fuel tank. The explosion causes the nose of the aircraft to break off. The aircraft continues to disintegrate as it plummets into the sea, killing all 230 on board.
24 11 November 1, 2005 "Paris Train Crash"
(Runaway Train)
Gare de Lyon rail accident June 27, 1988 Train collision on platform
A commuter train bound for Paris is forced to stop at Le Vert de Maisons (Paris RER) when a woman pulls the emergency brake. The crew reset the brake system so the train can resume its trip. They make a series of mistakes that results in the train being unable to brake and slow down. When the train arrives at the Gare de Lyon, it collides with another train parked at the station, killing 56 people.
25 12 November 15, 2005 "The Hindenburg"
(Hindenburg Air Ship)
Hindenburg disaster May 6, 1937 Zeppelin crash
The zeppelin LZ-129 Hindenburg approaches the Lakehurst Naval Air Station for landing. Thunderstorms have added static electricity to the zeppelin's skin. It makes two sharp turns as it approaches the air field, something that the Hindenburg was not designed to do. A cable in one of the hydrogen cells snaps and whiplashes the cell. When the landing ropes touch the ground, they are slowly soaked by the light rain falling, and a static spark ignites the hydrogen leak. The zeppelin explodes into an inferno and crashes, killing 35 of the 97 people on board and one ground crew member.
26 13 December 13, 2005 "Puerto Rico Gas Explosion" Humberto Vidal Explosion November 21, 1996 Subterranean explosion
For days, a foul smell hangs around in the Humberto Vidal shoe store in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The smell is caused by leaking propane gas coming from an unmapped pipe in the sloping road near the shoe store. The gas goes undetected due to faulty gas searching techniques. Then, an air conditioner with bad wiring is switched on, starting a spark that ignites the propane and the store explodes, claiming 33 lives.
27 14 January 10, 2006 "Skywalk Collapse"
(Hotel Skywalk)
Hyatt Regency walkway collapse July 17, 1981 Skywalk collapse
1,500 people gather for a dance in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. The second and 4th floor skywalks, hung from steel rods, fail. They collapse and crush 114 people to death.
28 15 March 28, 2006 "Amsterdam Air Crash"
(Schiphol Plane Crash)
(Plane Crash in the Suburbs)
El Al Flight 1862 October 4, 1992 Plane crash
El Al Flight 1862, a Boeing 747-200F cargo airliner, takes-off from Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Metal fatigue in the fuse pin holding up the inner engine on the right wing causes it to fail and the engine breaks away from the aircraft. The engine running at full power shoots forward and knocks out the outer engine and damages 30 ft. of the wing. The lift between the wings becomes unbalanced, but at its current speed, the aircraft is able to remain relatively level in the air. Eight minutes later, when the crew slow down the 747 for landing, it banks sharply to the right and loses altitude. Now out of control, the aircraft crashes into a high-rise apartment building, killing 43 people.
29 16 April 18, 2006 "Russia's Nuclear Sub Nightmare"
(Kursk submarine disaster)
(The Kursk)
Kursk submarine disaster August 12, 2000 Submarine sinking
During a training mission, a torpedo on board the Kursk leaks hydrogen peroxide. It reacts with iron oxide (rust) in the bow and blasts the front of the submarine. Although the submarine has explosion-proof walls, the explosion spreads through the ventilation shafts. 135 seconds later, another explosion rocks the submarine. Then it sinks, killing all but 23 men on board. While the survivors wait to be rescued, special boards that produce breathing oxygen drop into the oily floor, starting a reaction that creates a fire, killing them as well.
30 17 May 19, 2006 "King's Cross Fire"
(Kings Cross Fire)
(London's Subway Inferno)
King's Cross fire November 18, 1987 Subway station fire
A smoker drops a lit match down through a gap between steps in a wooden escalator at the King's Cross tube (underground railway) station, where it ignites grease and accumulated litter. Noticing the glow of the fire, someone presses the emergency knob to stop the escalator. Although most of the blaze remains hidden, the entire area under the escalator is soon on fire. The growing conflagration causes the escalator above it to heat up. It gets so hot that, aided by the rising draught up the stairway, it combusts and blasts a fireball up the escalator, killing 31 people in the ticket hall 20 metres away. This effect is now called the trench effect.
31 18 June 27, 2006 "US Embassy Bombings"
(American Embassy Bombing)
(Nairobi Bombing)
1998 U.S. embassy bombings August 7, 1998 Terrorist attacks (two bombings)
In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, truck bombs destroy the U.S. Embassy buildings killing 257 and injuring thousands. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are held responsible for the attacks.
32 19 July 11, 2006 "Florida Swamp Air Crash"
(Everglades Plane Crash)
(Florida Air Crash)
ValuJet Flight 592 May 11, 1996 Aircraft crash
ValuJet Flight 592, a DC-9 with 110 people on board, is bound for Atlanta, Georgia from Miami, Florida. While it taxis for take-off, expired oxygen generators being transported in the cargo hold self-activate. The oxygen ignites in the overheated hold. Shortly after take-off, the cargo fire grows so large that the cabin is consumed in flames. The jet loses control and goes down in the Everglades. There are no survivors.

Season 3 (2006–2007)[edit]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
33 1 July 25, 2006 "Titanic"
(Sinking of the Titanic)
RMS Titanic April 14–15, 1912 Ship sinking
The RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City with over 2,000 people on board, strikes an iceberg. The rivets holding the hull together fail upon impact, allowing water to enter the first five compartments, one more than she can handle and remain afloat. Plus, it also happens that the ship is equipped with insufficient lifeboats. Within 2 hours and 40 minutes, she sinks, taking with her about 1,500 lives.
34 2 August 15, 2006 "Aircraft Carrier Explosion" USS Forrestal fire July 29, 1967 Aircraft carrier explosion
Fighter aircraft on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal prepare to launch for a sortie over Vietnam. An electrical power surge together with an ineffective safety mechanism and altered weapon-arming procedures cause the accidental firing of a Zuni rocket. The rocket strikes another armed and fuelled aircraft, starting a fire that detonates various munitions. Firefighting efforts inadvertently spread the fire below deck. The disaster kills 132 personnel with a further 161 wounded and 2 missing, presumed dead.
35 3 September 6, 2006 "Plane Crash in Queens"
(New York Air Crash)
American Airlines Flight 587 November 12, 2001 Aircraft crash
American Airlines Flight 587, operated by an Airbus A300-600R, leaves John F. Kennedy Airport for Santo Domingo. Shortly after take-off, the A300 encounters wake turbulence from a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 that has taken off from the same runway 30 seconds earlier, causing it to roll violently about its lateral axis. The handling pilot attempts to stabilize the airliner by applying firm rudder, but this is so extreme that it overstresses the attachments between the fuselage and the vertical stabilizer (or 'fin'), causing them to fail. The entire fin then breaks away. Without the fin to give it lateral stability, the aircraft rolls out of control and crashes into Rockaway, Queens, killing all 260 people on board and five on the ground.
36 4 September 13, 2006 "Munich Olympic Massacre"
(Munich Olympics Massacre)
(Olympic Hostage Crisis)
Munich massacre September 5–6, 1972 Terrorist attack (hostage taking)
During the Olympic Games in Munich, 11 Israeli athletes are held hostage by Palestinian terrorists. They supply a list of Palestine prisoners whose release they demand in exchange for freeing the athletes. But at Fürstenfeldbruck Airport, a rescue attempt goes wrong, and by 12:00 am on the next day, 17 people are dead.
37 5 September 20, 2006 "Superstore Collapse"
(Department Store Collapse)
Sampoong Department Store collapse June 29, 1995 Building collapse
Three air conditioning units on the roof of the five-story Sampoong Department Store in Seoul, South Korea are moved across the roof. Two years later, a column on the fifth floor fails due to the AC's vibrations, causing the building to collapse. The store had been kept open, despite reservations about its safety, and 501 people in the store were killed.
38 6 September 27, 2006 "Plane Crash in the Potomac"
(Washington Air Crash)
Air Florida Flight 90 January 13, 1982 Aircraft crash
Air Florida Flight 90 leaves Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia, for Miami with 79 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 737–200 has been delayed for hours by bad weather conditions, allowing ice to build up and disrupt the airflow over the wings. Seconds after getting airborne, the aircraft stalls and crashes into the 14th Street Bridge. It bounces off and slams into the icy Potomac river. Five people are rescued, but 78 lose their lives, four of them motorists on the bridge.
39 7 October 25, 2006 "Asian Tsunami" 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake December 26, 2004 Earthquake and consequent tsunami
The second largest earthquake in 40 years, with a magnitude of 9.3, strikes the town of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Soon, it unleashes a tsunami, which takes nearly 230,000 lives around the coasts of the entire Indian Ocean.
40 8 November 15, 2006 "Comet Air Crash"
(Crash of the Comet)
BOAC Flight 781
South African Airways Flight 201
BOAC 781: January 10, 1954
SAA 201: April 8, 1954
Two aircraft crashes
A de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, the world's first passenger jet airliner, takes off from Rome but explodes over the Tyrrhenian Sea 26 minutes into the flight, killing 35. Three months later, another Comet crashes into the sea at night, evidently in the same manner. It emerges that in both crashes the aluminium hull of the aircraft has split open. The cause is determined to have been metal fatigue, brought about by factors including repeated pressurisation of the cabin to a higher and more frequent degree than previously experienced, the square-cornered design of fuselage apertures such as windows, and an inadequate understanding of the behaviour of metals in the conditions of high-altitude flight. The investigation results in improved metallurgical understanding, from which all aircraft design greatly benefits. This episode mainly focuses on BOAC Flight 781, the first to crash.
41 9 November 29, 2006 "Chicago Air Crash"
(Flight Engine Down)
(Chicago Flight 191)
American Airlines Flight 191 May 25, 1979 Aircraft crash
American Airlines Flight 191, a DC-10, takes-off from Chicago's O'Hare Airport. As the aircraft lifts off the runway the engine breaks free from the left wing and flies over and behind it, smashing onto the runway and leaving a gash in the wing leading edge. A leak of hydraulic fluid from the damaged wing leads to loss of hydraulic pressure, in turn causing the left wing slats to retract, depriving that wing of lift. The resulting asymmetric condition of the wings causes the DC-10 to roll rapidly to the left, becoming almost inverted. It crashes into a trailer park, killing all on board plus two on the ground. The cause is found to lie in time- and money-saving maintenance methods adopted by the airline, with the non-redundant design of the controls operating the DC-10's flying surfaces adjudged a contributing factor.
42 10 December 6, 2006 "Texas Oil Explosion"
(Texas Refinery Disaster)
(Oil Fire in Texas)
Texas BP Refinery explosion March 23, 2005 Oil refinery explosion
At the BP Oil Refinery in Texas City, a test on the distillation tower goes wrong. Liquid waste builds up and flows out through the blowout tower. Waste fumes ignite and detonate, destroying a trailer placed dangerously close to the blowout tower, killing 15 workers. A case study that has driven new safety standards and a safety case focus on temporary buildings located on industrial sites.
43 11 January 2, 2007 "Tornado Outbreak" The Super Outbreak April 3–4, 1974 Tornado outbreak
The most violent outbreak of tornadoes in history, the Super Outbreak, releases 148 tornadoes in 13 American states and one province in Canada. Thousands of homes are destroyed and more than 350 people die; 5,000 people are left homeless or injured, or both.
44 12 January 31, 2007 "Space Shuttle Explosion"
(Space Shuttle Challenger)
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster January 28, 1986 Space shuttle disintegration
Space Shuttle Challenger blasts off from Cape Canaveral to start the STS-51-L mission. Freezing weather leads to the O-rings in one of the field joints in a solid rocket booster to leak hot gases that impinge on its mount on the external tank. However, pieces of aluminum from the solid rocket fuel build up and seals the joint. 58 seconds later, a strong jetstream dislodges the aluminum, allowing rocket fuel to leak out once more. 15 seconds afterward, the external tank breaks up, the solid rocket boosters fly free, and aerodynamic forces rip Challenger into pieces that fall into the ocean. All seven astronauts on board are killed.
45 13 March 7, 2007 "Eruption on Montserrat"
(When the Volcano Blew)
1995–1997 eruption of Soufrière Hills July 18, 1995 – December 26, 1997 Volcanic eruption
In July 1995, the Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat spews ash over the island. The nearby capital of Plymouth is evacuated. Two years on, Soufrière Hills erupts violently. Pyroclastic flows rage down the mountain and destroy Plymouth and Bramble Airport, killing 19 people. The eruption generates a small tsunami.

This episode mainly focuses on the events of June 25, 1997.

Season 4 (2011)[edit]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
46 1 September 5, 2011 "9/11" September 11 attacks September 11, 2001 Terrorist attacks (4 aircraft hijackings and intentional crashes into buildings)
On September 11, 2001, two aircraft are deliberately flown into two buildings of the World Trade Center and one is flown into the Pentagon. Another crashes in a field in rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
47 2 September 12, 2011 "Pearl Harbor" Attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941 Act of war
On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attack United States military installations in and around Pearl Harbor, without declaring war, thus bringing the U.S. into World War II; the attack is presented as a Japanese disaster, "A Day of Infamy", missing key targets and provoking a war they could never win. 2,403 US soldiers die, 1,178 are wounded, while Japan loses 129 soldiers, and 1 sub captain is captured. The US has 328 planes and 19 ships damaged or destroyed, the most famous of which is the Arizona.
48 3 September 19, 2011 "Paddington Train Collision" / "Paddington Rail Disaster" Ladbroke Grove rail crash October 5, 1999 Train collision
On October 5, 1999, in morning rush hour two trains collide at Ladbroke Grove junction near London's Paddington station after the driver of one fails to stop his train at a red signal. The trains collided at a combined speed of 130 m.p.h. producing a spectacular fireball. 31 people die (2 drivers and 29 passengers) and 523 are injured.
49 4 September 26, 2011 "Collision at 35,000 Feet"/ "Death in Mid-Air" Überlingen mid-air collision July 1, 2002 Mid-air collision
On July 1, 2002, a Bashkirian airliner and a DHL freight aircraft collide while they are over Überlingen, Germany and crash, killing all 71 people on board, including 45 Russian schoolchildren on a trip to Barcelona. Having lost his entire family, Vitaly Kaloyev would later murder the air traffic controller.
50 5 October 3, 2011 "Cable Car Collision" / "Alpine Collision" Cavalese cable car disaster (1998) February 3, 1998 Aerial tramway cable severing by aircraft
On February 3, 1998, a low-flying Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler of the United States Marine Corps hits the support cable of an aerial tramway near the Italian town of Cavalese, severing it. The cabin on the cable falls to the ground, killing the 20 occupants. The aircraft lands safely.
51 6 October 10, 2011 "Bhopal Nightmare" Bhopal disaster December 2–3, 1984 Industrial disaster
On December 2, 1984, in Bhopal, India, a toxic gas leak at a Union Carbide chemical plant results in the deaths of 3,000 people.

Season 5 (2012)[edit]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
52 1 March 11, 2012 "Fukushima" Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster March 11, 2011 Nuclear disaster triggered by earthquake and tsunami
On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan's history, at magnitude 9.0, causes a tsunami off the country’s east coast that results in 15,893 deaths, 2,572 missing, and 6,152 injured. The tsunami causes a meltdown at the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant causing Prime Minister Naoto Kan to resign five months later on August 25, 2011. The meltdown also displaced around 100,000 people from their homes, jobs, and farms in the nearly 12.5 mile exclusion zone around the plant.
53 2 March 18, 2012 "The Bismarck" German battleship Bismarck May 27, 1941 Act of war
After several engagements over the previous days, on May 27, 1941 elements of the Royal Navy sink the German battleship Bismarck.
54 3 March 25, 2012 "Mountain Tsunami" 1963 Vajont Dam disaster October 9, 1963 Landslide and consequent flood
In 1963, a landslide from Monte Toc into the reservoir of the Europe's highest dam causes a giant flood wave that destroys a number of villages including the town of Longarone, claiming over 2,000 lives.
55 4 April 1, 2012 "Waco Cult" Waco Siege February 28 – April 19, 1993 Police raid, shootout and building fire
In 1993 an armed religious cult called the Branch Davidians were led by the charismatic David Koresh. After a 51-day siege at the Davidians armed compound in Waco, Texas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation tries to end the standoff with tear gas, but a fire breaks out and engulfs the compound. By the end 76 Davidians and 4 ATF agents die, including 22 children. This motivates Timothy McVeigh to retaliate by perpetrating the Oklahoma City Bombing.
56 5 April 15, 2012 "The Deepwater Horizon" Deepwater Horizon explosion April 20, 2010 Oil platform explosion
A series of decisions and mistakes lead to the deaths of 11 oil rig workers and the world's largest oil spill disaster.
57 6 April 22, 2012 "Mumbai Massacre" 2008 Mumbai attacks November 26, 2008 Terrorist attacks (shootings and bombings)
On November 26, 2008, terrorists attack two luxury hotels (one of them the famous Taj Mahal Hotel), a Jewish educational center, a café and a train station in Mumbai, killing 166 people. They also placed pipe bombs in two taxis, which killed the drivers whilst driving to a hotel.

Season 6 (2012)[edit]

Season 6 of Seconds From Disaster premiered on the one-year anniversary of the 2011 Norway attacks (July 22, 2012). The episode was promoted as a one-off special. The other nine episodes aired from November 5, 2012 in Australia with the episode "Jonestown Cult Suicide".[4]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
58 1 July 22, 2012 "Norway Massacre: I Was There" 2011 Norway attacks July 22, 2011 Terrorist attacks (bombing and shooting)
On July 22, 2011, a gunman goes on a terrorist rampage – starting with an explosion in Oslo and ending with the murder of dozens of teenagers.
59 2 November 5, 2012 "Jonestown Cult Suicide" Jonestown cult murder-suicide November 18, 1978 Cult suicide
On November 18, 1978, cult leader Reverend Jim Jones and his followers die in Guyana, South America. Congressmen Leo Ryan (D-CA) is assassinated and Jim Jones dies of a gunshot wound to the head. In all 909 people die from a poisoned 'grape juice', the largest mass murder-suicide of US citizens in history.
60 3 November 12, 2012 "Fire in the Cockpit" Swissair Flight 111 September 2, 1998 In-flight fire and consequent aircraft crash
On September 2, 1998, a fire breaks out on board a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 while on a transatlantic flight, damaging vital systems and causing the aircraft to crash into the sea off the coast of Canada with no survivors.
61 4 November 19, 2012 "Black Hawk Down" Battle of Mogadishu October 3–4, 1993 Acts of war
On October 3–4, 1993, the United States Army in Somalia is engaged in a battle that kills 18 US Rangers and around 1,000 Somali combatants.
62 5 November 26, 2012 "Into The Death Zone" 1996 Mount Everest disaster May 10–11, 1996 Mountain climbing disaster
On May 10–11, 1996, nine climbers die on Mount Everest, including New Zealand climbing veteran Rob Hall.
63 6 December 3, 2012 "Terrified Over Tokyo" Japan Airlines Flight 123 August 12, 1985 Aircraft crash
On August 12, 1985, the rear pressure bulkhead of a Boeing 747 bursts, destroying the vertical stabilizer and severing all four of the aircraft's vital hydraulic systems. The crew keep the aircraft flying for 32 minutes until it clips Mt Osutaka and crashes, killing all but four people out of the 524 passengers and crew on board.
64 7 December 10, 2012 "Runaway Train" Amagasaki rail crash April 25, 2005 Train derailment
On April 25, 2005, a seven-car commuter train derails and crashes just before Amagasaki Station in Japan, causing 107 deaths and 562 injuries. Investigations reveal that the driver made numerous mistakes prior to reaching the derailment site, and the prevailing theory regarding the crash's cause uncovers a harsh and systematic 'retraining system' that led the driver to fear being punished for his numerous mistakes, leading him to push the train beyond safe operating limits.
65 8 December 17, 2012 "Nagasaki – The Forgotten Bomb" Atomic bombing of Nagasaki August 9, 1945 Act of war
On August 9, 1945, during the final stages of World War II, the United States of America uses a nuclear weapon in combat for the second time, named Fat Man, against the Japanese city of Nagasaki. It is believed that over 70,000 died from radiation effects by one year later.
66 9 December 27, 2012 "Sinking The Coventry" Sinking of the HMS Coventry May 25, 1982 Act of war
On May 25, 1982, during the Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina, a low level bomb attack from Argentinian jets capsizes the HMS Coventry within 20 minutes.
67 10 December 29, 2012 "Chinook Helicopter Crash" 1994 Scotland RAF Chinook crash June 2, 1994 Helicopter crash
On June 2, 1994, a Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook helicopter crashes on the Mull of Kintyre, on the west coast of Scotland. All 29 people aboard die, 25 of them being counter-terrorism officers who battled the IRA. The initial investigation cites pilot error as the cause, but several more investigations take place over the next 17 years before this verdict is overturned.

Season 7 (2018)[edit]

Episode 1, "Chopper Down", aired on 15 February 2018 at 8pm on National Geographic UK,[5] while Episode 2 aired on 22 February with the title "Deadly Design".[6]

# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
68 1 February 15, 2018 "Chopper Down" Battle of Mogadishu
1994 Scotland RAF Chinook crash
October 3–4, 1993
June 2, 1994
Helicopter Crashes
This compilation of previous Seconds from Disaster combines two helicopter crashes of a military nature. In 1993, a US Army Black Hawk crashed in the deserted streets of Mogadishu. In 1994, a Royal Air Force Chinhook HC-2 crashed into a hill on the west side of the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland after taking a group of VIP passengers from Northern Ireland to Fort George.
# Airdate Title Disaster Date of disaster Nature of disaster
69 2 February 22, 2018 Deadly Design Swissair Flight 111
Japan Airlines Flight 123
September 2, 1998
August 12, 1985
Aircraft Crashes
This compilation of previous Seconds from Disaster episodes combines two airliner crashes that took hundreds of lives. In 1998, Swissair Flight 111 fell from the sky due to a wiring fault that sparked a fire in the entire cockpit. This fire grew uncontrollably and led to the demise of all 229 people on board. In 1985, Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashed into a remote mountainside after its rear pressure bulkhead failed, killing 520 people, making it the worst single aircraft accident in aviation history.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ With the exception of the series 3 episode "Comet Air Crash", that examines the crashes of two DH.106 Comet airliners in 1954.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Seconds From Disaster: Series 6 National Geographic Australia
  5. ^ "Schedule". Schedule | National Geographic. Retrieved 2018-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Schedule". Schedule | National Geographic. Retrieved 2018-02-15. 

External links[edit]