10 Heritage Sites That Were Destroyed by Natural Disasters

by Shivam Khandelwal2 years ago

6 In New York City, a wooden-covered bridge called the “Old Blenheim Bridge” had a span of 210 feet. It had the second-longest span of any surviving single-span-covered bridge in the world. It was inaugurated in 1855 and was the oldest of its kind in the US. Floods caused by Tropical Storm Irene of 2011 destroyed the bridge completely.

Old Blenheim Bridge
Blenheim Bridge, spanning Schoharie Creek, River Road, NY. Image credit: Jet Lowe/Library of Congress via Wikimedia.org

Located near the village of North Blenheim, the bridge was constructed by Nicholas Montgomery Powers in 1855. The most important feature of the wooden-covered bridge was that it relied entirely on its single-center arch.

The setting enabled the bridge to divide into two lanes, hence it was sometimes known as a “double-barrel” and “double-tunnel” bridge.

The bridge was in regular use and owned privately until 1891 when it was transferred to the State Highway Department.

The wooden-covered bridge was hit by floods and faced damage for the first time in 1869. The old bridge was abandoned and a new steel and concrete bridge was built in 1932.

On 28 August 2011, Class 500-Year floods hit the bridge and carried it on its way. No pieces were left in the bridge’s place; they were scattered far, wide, and randomly down the river.

Even if the local community recovered some of the bridge’s timber, it is impossible to bring its historic integrity back. On 21 July 2015, the bridge’s landmark designation was removed. (Source)


7 There was a 28-meter-tall natural arch known as Azure Window on the island of Goza off the shores of Malta. It was one of the major tourist attractions on the island, and it also appeared in multiple international movies and media. The island saw stormy weather on 8 March 2017, and it collapsed a number of natural features on the island along with the Azure Window.

Azure Window
Azure Window on Gozo Island, Malta. Image credit: Shutterstock

Azure Window looked like a pillar rising from the sea that was connected to a side cliff by a horizontal slab. The arch was used in international shows as well. The popular HBO series Game of Thrones featured the arch in its very first episode. 

It is estimated to have been created in the 19th century when a sea cave was destroyed by erosion.

A study in 2013 revealed that even if the limestone arch was exposed to inevitable erosion, it will take a long time before it collapses.

Before its collapse in 2017, officials had put up a signboard to not walk on the landmark. However, the sign was often ignored.

On the day it collapsed, a big wave hit the window from beneath and it collapsed into the sea. (1, 2)


8 Across the Heng River in Tunxi District, Anhui, China, stood a stone arch bridge named Zhenhai Bridge. It embraced a total history of more than 400 years. Sources say it was first built before 1490. Then it was rebuilt in the year 1699 during the reign of the Qing Dynasty. Eventually, the structure was destroyed on 7 July 2020 during the 2020 China floods.

Zhenhai Bridge
Zhenhai Bridge in 2013. Image credit: 猫猫的日记本 via Wikimedia.org

This historic bridge measured 133 meters in length and was 15 meters wide. It is believed to have been built during the 15th year of the Jiajing Period in the Ming Dynasty in 1536. However, the Xiuning County annals and other sources show that the bridge is older than 1490.

In 2019, it was officially recognized as a major historical and cultural site at the national level in Anhui.

The bridge was completely overwhelmed by the floods in July 2020. Fortunately, there were no casualties on the scene during the disaster.

After the floods calmed down, salvage work was done. and the original stones dating back to the Ming Dynasty were found. The reconstruction of the Zhenhai Bridge started in December 2020. (1, 2)


9 Arg e Bam or the “Bam Citadel,” was a large adobe fortress in present-day Iran. In fact, it was the largest adobe building in the world. Even if the precise date is unknown, it was surely more than 2,000 years old. Since it sat atop a hill, most of this castle was destroyed during an earthquake in 2003.

Bam Citadel
Image credit: Shutterstock

The citadel in the ancient town of Bam in southeastern Iran was built in vernacular technique using mud layers and mud bricks.

Bam Citadel
Ancient ruins islamic iranian citadel in Bam. Image credit: Shutterstock

It is guessed that the structure was built somewhere around the 6th to 4th centuries BCE during the Achaemenid Empire. However, its significance only rose during the 7th to 11th centuries BCE when it became a crossroad along the Silk Road and other important trade routes.

Initially, the whole building was a huge fortress containing the citadel, but later, the entire fortress was known as Bam Citadel since the citadel dominates the ruins.

The Citadel and nearby area are also recognized as one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

On the day of 26 December 2003 along with the rest of the Bam City, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. A few days after the disaster and great cultural loss, the President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, announced the reconstruction of the Citadel.

(1, 2, 3)


10 On the mouth of Kingston Harbor, Jamaica, Port Royal was a village founded by the Spaniards in 1494. It became the largest port in the Caribbean, working as a center of shopping and commerce in the 17th century. The town was devastated by an earthquake accompanied by a tsunami in June of 1692.

Jamaica Kingston Harbor
West Indies – Jamaica – Kingston Harbour, ca.1870. Image credit: annona.de via Wikimedia.org

After the Spanish founded Port Royal, but it was captured by the British in 1655. By the end of the 17th century, it became the second major New World city, only after Boston.

The city was also infamous for pirates and sex workers that gathered for trade. Englishmen used to visit Port Royal to make profits from the slave trade, labor in plantations, and buy the treasures stolen by pirates.           

The city was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 7 June 1962. Most of the tall buildings of the city were built on sand, therefore they were sure to collapse. Buildings along with roads and people were sucked into the ground. Approximately 33 acres of land disappeared under water including four forts and 2,000 people.

After this disaster, the city was hit multiple times by fire, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and was eventually closed by the British.

Divers have continually been exploring since the 1950s under the water up to 40 feet where the sunken city lies. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Amazing Hidden Histories From the World’s Most Famous Places

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