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Seconds From Disaster is a documentary series that profiles a number of man-made and natural disasters that have taken place throughout history. Ashton Smith, Richard Vaughn, and Peter Guiness have served as the show's narrators. The show deals with a number of incidents including hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, floods, airline crashes and bombings. Each episode is presented with in-depth analysis of the events that lead up to the disaster, interviews with survivors, witnesses, and professionals in the related field. The show also features terrifying reenactments of the events and actual photos and film footage of what transpires before, during and after the disaster.

Some of the disasters profiled include the "Crash of the Concorde," which outlines the tragedy of the Air France Flight 4790; "The Bomb in Oklahoma City," a profile of the gruesome bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh; "The Space Shuttle Columbia," where six astronauts were killed when the shuttle exploded upon entering the Earth's atmosphere; "Tornado Outbreak," which features the deadly April 3-4, 1974 tornado outbreak that spawned over 149 tornadoes--mostly F4s and F5s--killing over 350 people, and "American Airlines Flight 77," outlining the doomed flight on 9-11, which slammed into the Pentagon.

The series uses enhanced CGI technology to break down the structural failures of the events in second by second detail. Viewers can see a chronological clock that counts down the events as they take place. Experts are on hand to analyze the cause of the incidents and why they happened, and each sequence has the clock winding back to go over the event. The last sequence focuses on the survivors and family members. Survivors relay their thoughts about the tragedy and how it affected their lives. Most survivors are able to recount their experience in graphic detail. They also pay homage to the police, fire, doctors and rescue professionals who assisted them and others. The show outlines preventative measures increase safety and decrease the number of injuries and deaths.

Tuesday 9:00 PM et/pt on National Geographic
5 Seasons, 54 Episodes
July 6, 2004
Nature, Documentary & Biography
Cast: Ashton Smith, Richard Vaughan, Richard Vaughn
Seconds From Disaster

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Seconds From Disaster Full Episode Guide

  • The Deepwater Horizon rig has finished drilling the Macondo Well for BP in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • In March 2011 the most powerful recorded earthquake ever to hit Japan sends a 14m high tsunami surging into the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station. The subsequent chain of events resulted in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and brought into question the safety of nuclear power around the world.

  • Waco, Texas. On February 28th 1993 the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms raid a compound belonging to a religious cult called the Branch Davidians.

  • In 1960 construction of Europe's tallest dam is completed in in the Vajont Valley in Northern Italy - the jewel in the crown of an ambitious hydro-electric generation scheme.

  • The Royal Navy's battle with Bismarck is a pivotal point in the Second World War.

  • The crash of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979, is chronicled. At least 270 died, making it one of the worst air disasters in U.S. history. Moments after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the left wing separated from the plane, causing it to nose-dive. "Chicago Flight 191" examines the chain of events that led up to the tragedy.

  • The deadly June 25, 1997, eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, is recalled. Included: eyewitness accounts, computer simulation and reports from a scientific-investigation team.

  • The Jan. 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger tragedy is recalled. All seven passengers on the craft were killed when it exploded 73 seconds after launch.

  • The March 23, 2005, explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, is recalled. Fifteen people were killed and more than 170 were injured when a spark from an idling vehicle ignited gas vapors and grew into a massive fire.

  • The March 23, 2005, explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, is recalled. Fifteen people were killed and more than 170 were injured when a spark from an idling vehicle ignited gas vapors and grew into a massive fire.

  • Experts probe the super-outbreak of tornadoes of 1974, when 148 twisters touched down in less than 18 hours, killing more than 300 people in 13 states, making it the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history.