By John Withington

ISBN-10: 0749909781

ISBN-13: 9780749909789

John Withington's booklet is an epic trip in the course of the annals of the disastrous occasions that experience marked human historical past. partially I are all of the significant common calamities - floods, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, plague and famine. half II describes in brilliant aspect the best man-made failures - battle and invasion, persecution and bloodbath, riots and terrorism, explosions and fires, shipwrecks and air crashes. Out of all this horror, the writer produces a hugely exciting and throught-provoking publication.

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On the last day of 1703 Tokyo, then known as Edo, was hit by an earthquake that brought its wooden houses crashing to the ground and sent fires scorching through the ruins. It also precipitated a terrifying flood. Some believe that as many as 150,000 people were killed. At two minutes before noon on Saturday, 1 September 1923, Tokyo began to shake again. The earth had shifted beneath Sagami Bay, fifty miles away, and the initial shock lasted for about five minutes. It was followed by two more. Huge chasms opened in the streets, swallowing people and even trams.

Within minutes, thousands of homes were ablaze, and those who had stayed inside at first came running out, carrying whatever they could. Tokyo had a few modern concrete blocks on broad streets, but most of the city was still like an enormous village, with narrow paths winding between densely packed single-storey houses, built of timber, paper and thatch. These alleys soon became blocked with desperate people, while the individual fires coalesced into great conflagrations that raced through the city, hurried on by high winds spinning off a typhoon EARTHQUAKES 37 raging off the coast.

So when an earthquake ripped through Ashgabat, then the capital of the Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, in October 1948, Russian leader Joseph Stalin would not accept any help from the outside world; and; indeed, he did his best to keep it a secret. It was only after President Gorbachev had brought in his policy of glasnost (openness) in the 1980s that the authorities admitted 110,000 people had been killed. It emerged that most of Ashgabat's main buildings had been destroyed, including all its mosques, while many nearby villages were also flattened.

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A Disastrous History of the World: Chronicles of War, Earthquakes, Plauge and Flood by John Withington

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