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Some of the largest mass evacuations in the world

East Prussia, 1945

East Prussia, 1945

This month, 20,000 people were evacuated from over 100 buildings in Moscow after bomb threats. We look back at some of the largest mass evacuations in the world, mostly triggered by natural disasters or looming war.

2 mn evacuated

An estimated two million Germans were evacuated from East Prussia in 1945 when the region was ceded to the Soviet Union under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement.

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​Airlift from Kuwait, 1990

​Airlift from Kuwait, 1990

170,000 rescued

Air India operated 488 flights between August and October 20 to airlift an estimated 170,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait after Iraqi’s invasion.

The 63-day operation, on which the movie Airlift was made, is called the largest air evacuation.

Akshay Kumar played the role of Mathunny Mathews, the Indian businessman in Kuwait credited with leading the evacuation.

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​Hurricane Rita, 2005

​Hurricane Rita, 2005

3 mn evacuated

The fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most intense tropical cyclone observed in the Gulf of Mexico prompted one of the largest urban evacuations in US history with Texas and Louisiana officials moving over 3 million residents.

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​Yangtze River Floods, 1998

​Yangtze River Floods, 1998

14 mn rescued

The Yangtze, the longest river in Asia, has seen major floods in 1870, 1931, 1954, 1998, and 2010.

The 1998 flood, the worst in 44 years, killed 4,000 and destroyed 5.6 mn homes. The UN said direct economic damage was estimated at over $20 billion.

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​Operation Pied Piper, 1939

​Operation Pied Piper, 1939

3.5 mn relocated

Fear that German bombing would cause civilian deaths prompted the UK government to evacuate children, women with infants and the infirm from towns and cities to rural regions during the Second World War.

Evacuation took place over three days, starting September 1, when Germany invaded Poland.

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​Manhattan Water Evacuation, 2011

​Manhattan Water Evacuation, 2011

500,000 rescued

When two planes collided into the World Trade Center towers in September 11, hundreds of thousands were trapped on the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

The US Coast Guard led a water evacuation of more than 500,000 people.

The water evacuation was “bigger than Dunkirk”, according to former commandant of the United States Coast Guard Admiral James Loy.

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​Operation Dynamo, 1940

​Operation Dynamo, 1940

338,000 rescued

But let us not underestimate the spirit that made Dunkirk possible. In May 1940, German invasion had pushed 338,000 Allied soldiers to the beachhead in the French coastal city.

Saving them meant having a force to fight another day. Over the course of nine days, more than 800 fishing smacks and other boats set out to bring the troops home, some with civilian sailors at the helm.

(Text: Ram Mohan, ET Bureau)

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