I'm creating a story where a couple of cities across the globe have been transplanted into a different world. About a five mile sphere around a centered point in a city has been taken. They are neatly placed into the plateau without any damage to the city, it's structure(aside from a neat cut at about 5 miles out from the point of origin), or it's people.

The city sizes are varied and their geographies as well. The cities/surrounding area that were displaced are Fargo, ND, USA and surrounding area, Seattle, WA, USA and surrounding area, Antananavarivo, Madagascar, Metro Manila, Philippines, Hong Kong, Pyongyang, North Korea, and Gibraltar.

The inhabitants of the cities are from our present day except that there are superpowered individuals that have their own tech that isn't publicly available before the displacement.

These cities are suddenly transported to a plateau large enough to contain all six cities with tons of space left.

What would the implications to this displacement that I should be looking at in terms of survival? Supply routes, water services, electricity?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm assuming you're transporting them to a human-inhabitable terrestrial world, neatly splicing them into suitably shaped holes so there's no impact. You might consider making that clear. Beyond that though, I'd be concerned that your question is too wide open. "What are the implications" is so broad it is nigh-on unaswerable. What specific things are you interested in? $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2019 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ Editing for more clarity. But yes, human-inhabitable terrestrial world, without any impact from the displacement. As for implications, how long would people realistically survive? If the handful of supers that got transported with provide help, would that extend it by a lot? Of the supers transported, none are able to produce food/water and none of them are really able to break the laws of physics too much. Energy is still spent to use their powers, albeit at a skewed level. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2019 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it probably depends on how tasty and nutritious the supers are. There's a good amount of meat on an adult... it'll feed a family for a while, if preserved carefully. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2019 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify what "survival" or the city "lasting" means. What percent of the population needs to be alive in order for them to be "surviving"? What does the city need to have or be doing in order for it to be considered "lasting"? $\endgroup$
    – Mathaddict
    Dec 20, 2019 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ Does the surrounding area contain anything edible? Most urbanites aren't going to have the ability to survive by hunting & gathering, so you are likely to see a large percentage dying from starvation. Even if there is an immediatel outside food supply, most of the survivors will not live in the city, but outside where they can hunt and later farm. (Assuming there are even crop seeds in the city.) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 20, 2019 at 18:43

6 Answers 6


Not long.

Most cities have extremely minimal supplies of even what you'd consider the basics of life today, due to the way that supply chains have developed. Food is grown far outside a city's borders and transported in, and similarly for medicine; water purification and sewage processing is situated near large fresh water sources, and the treated product is piped in.

The stocks of the above are going to run out fast. Once everyone realises that, they're going to head for the shops to try and stock up on whatever they can. Those shops aren't going to sell those supplies because the owners know that they'll need them before long (also because currency is now worthless). The end result will be rioting, looting, and general anarchy - and that's before supplies run out.

The end result of the fighting will be the development of factions that control various vital resources. Depots of bottled water, police stations with guns and ammunition, that sort of thing. Everyone else gets to survive with whatever they had, or can steal, or whatever.

They don't survive long. A human can survive for weeks without food, but only about 3 days without water. If there is a water source on this other world, one of the powerful factions will already have claimed it - but that's not worth much, because they also need to purify it, and that's a far more difficult task. An organized faction may be able to accomplish this... your average family unit, not so much. And that faction is not going to be willing to allow outsiders to use "their" water.

So people are going to start dying. Lots of people. Because you no longer have clean water or sewage processing or refuse removal or law enforcement or medical services or anyone that has time for tasks other than personal survival, the dead are going to lie where they fall, and they are going to rot. Which will bring disease. Which will make it even more hazardous for those who remain.

Pets of deceased owners will become feral. Rodents and cockroaches will emerge from the sewers. These animals will also be desperate for water and food, which will remove their fear of humans, creating another hazard. They will feast on the dead, which will further generate and spread pestilence.

Unless you are already prepared for such a nightmare scenario, there is very little you, as an average Joe, are going to be able to do to survive it. It doesn't matter how fit you are - if you can't get the essentials of human life, you die. Even if you have superpowers, unless those powers are "produce clean water", you're done for.

So, the #1 predictor of survival in this scenario, is, perversely, how quickly you get out of the city. The sooner you leave, the sooner you will (hopefully) find a (relatively) clean water source that (probably) won't kill you. If you're lucky, you find native plants that you can eat (you will certainly lose a few of your people to the trial and error necessary in figuring out what's poisonous and what's not). If you're really lucky you have some Earth crop seeds to plant, and you find somewhere to plant them, and you actually know how to make them grow, and they don't get eaten or destroyed by rain or native animals, and they produce enough to feed everyone in your group...

All of this is ignoring the deadliness of the native fauna on this world. That includes bacteria and viruses (or whatever the native equivalent is), which as H. G. Wells demonstrated, could conceivably be the deadliest thing of all.

Finally, the world in question needs to be broadly similar to Earth for humans to have any chance of surviving. If you're talking non-carbon-based lifeforms, or and extremely arid planet, or a different atmospheric gas composition, you might as well be on the Moon or on Mars.

In short, what you have is a situation that's at best orders of magnitude worse than any zombie apocalypse. 20% of the population surviving would be a miracle; I think 2% would still be a stretch.

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    $\begingroup$ I think anything other than "everyone dies within the week" is a stretch. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Dec 21, 2019 at 21:36

24 hours?

Some people who worry about such things say that a modern city is three square meals away from anarchy. (Or one square meal, or three days. The principle stays the same and controlled experiments on the proposition are not exactly feasible.)

Modern urban areas are utterly dependent on just-in-time delivery. If that breaks down, modern society will be gone unless outside help is arriving quickly.

  • $\begingroup$ No refrigeration, only tank-fed BBQs for cooking. (Not counting those of us who have other tank-gas cooking sources, but that's not nearly as common as BBQs.) You aren't even getting 3 meals. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2019 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel, the guesstimate says that anarchy starts after three missed meals. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Dec 22, 2019 at 6:18

Modern cities are completely reliant on:

  • Out-of-city food supply
  • Out-of-city drinking water supply
  • Out-of-city electricity
  • Out-of-city fuel for heating

So when this happens, you will have a couple million people in an area which has none of the infrastructure required to supply them with their basic necessities for survival. Anyone who is so unlucky to be trapped in these cities would be well-advised to get away from there as quickly and as far as they can, or they will die from starvation, dehydration or the violence which will erupt over fighting for the few resources stockpiled within the cities.

A couple month later, the few survivors who managed to survive in the wilderness or found refugee in any surrounding civilizations (the question does not mention whether or not any of these exist around ) might return to loot what remains. They might encounter a couple gangs who managed to survive by occupying supermarkets and killing anyone who tried to steal their canned food or bottled water. But these gangs will also run out of supplies eventually, and then either kill each other or flee the city.

Before people could reclaim the cities as a permanent place of residence, they would first need to establish an agricultural industry around them so those who live in the cities can be supplied with food.


As others have outlined already, it's a nightmare scenario.

Even if the city had any electricity production within the distance that's transplanted, the electrical network won't stay up (it's a complicated thing that won't deal well with multiple cuts).

So the second the transplantation happens, all electricity is gone except for the few places (computing centres, hospitals, etc.) where the diesel generators start up to supply power for a few hours.

The next thing is food. I've done some work about critical infrastructure and the general consensus is that supermarkets in most western cities would start running out of food within 24 hours if supplies stopped - and that assumes normal business. People will panic as soon as they realize what happened, and then they'll stockpile what they can.

Fortunately, without electricity, news will travel slowly to the city center. There will be hours of confusion during which nobody quite realizes what happened, and people not at the edge where something visible has changed will probably assume that it's just a major power failure, and they might well believe this for one or two days.

Infrastructure of all kinds will be going down within hours. Sewage, trains, logistics, even highways are all systems that are not autonomous within a city-sized area. Trains won't be able to turn around because the point to do that is outside the city limits. Cars will find the highway suddenly stops. Trucks that were expected with supplies are nowhere to be seen.

There are two common human reactions to crisis. Cooperation and competition. Some people will start hoarding, boarding up the house and shooting anyone who comes close. Other people will from groups and work together to overcome whatever the problem is. You'll likely see both.

In the end, the vast majority of your people will die with either approach. A city grows a negliegable amount of food and often doesn't have a water source within city limits. As soon as water runs out, people will die like flies (you can survive without food for a while, but not without water). I'd estimate a week as there will be bottled water, water towers, water in fire engines and a hundred other places that can be tapped in an emergency. People will also start to collect rainwater once they realize the problem.

Most of the people will die before the survivors manage to set up anything that resembles a self-sufficient society. You can read about the Siege of Leningrad if you need some ideas as to what people will do. Pets will be eaten, parks cut down for firewood and turned into fields, and that assumes that order can be maintained.

A lot depends on the details. To what climate zone and in which season is your city transplanted? Does it have a fresh water source within city limits? Is there a military base or strong police presence that could enforce order? Is there a political or religious leader who could seize control or will various factions fight over it? Does the city have logistics hubs and warehouses within the portion that you cut? 5 miles will fit the city and its suburbs for some, but cut right through streets and city quarters in others.

And then you put them all on the same plateau. The city with the military base inside will likely send its tanks and planes and simply take the resources it needs from a neighbour - provided someone can seize control and manage a unified crisis response.


Many Prosperous Years, depending...

It depends on the details. If you transplant a city that has no power source of its own and no water supply (e.g., dependent on a river that is cut off at the 5 mile mark), it won't last long.

On the other hand, if the city has a water supply that "magically" ends up connected to another river at the 5 mile mark, has a power plant of its own with sufficient coal and/or natural gas supplies within the 5 mile radius, a reasonably talented workforce and well equipped to handle external threats (modern firearms capable of seriously outgunning the natives) then you will do just fine for years to come. Or at least, that's the way it turns out in the awesome 1632 series.


A general decrease in population but probably not going below 20%

The cities at first would suffer from power outages and water and gas ( basically everything that I supplied to the city externaly which is basically most of its needs)

I am going to go through what might happen in Seattle Washington as i have been born and raised there. First few days, life will go on normally without power that is except for generators. People will understandably be confused but with the other cities also displaced In viewing distance they would naturally send people there to understand what just happened. Assuming that the cities aren’t arranged in a circle and assuming there are water resources Seattle will first establish a firm contact with other American cities and depending on if they are at the closest distance (50 miles) and depending how many military personnel were in those cities they will form a conjoint force and fortify the perimeter. In few days they are gonna kiss that electricity bye bye for a while. With fuel running out generators stop working cities with solar or wind or nuclear will continue to work must likely supplying government and military buildings, people will riot and start plundering for resources but most likely the military and police will hold them down with many dying of starvation people will flee to the cities that were transported with most farmland surrounding it. You can be sure that military conflict will be inventible many more will die before farmlands are established outside the cities and the population stabilizing.

This is one of many ways things can go down.

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    $\begingroup$ Few if any modern cities have significant generating capacity within that five mile circle -- I lived in Seattle for twenty years or so, the nearest nuclear plant from there is nearly two hundred miles. There's no hydro capacity within that circle. There isn't a working fossil fuel power plant in that distance, either -- and there aren't anything like enough farms inside five miles to support a fraction of the population. Grocery store stock will run out (or be looted) within a day or two. It goes downhill from there. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 20, 2019 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @zeiss ikon I didn’t see the five mile thing i just read the part where he said Seattle and its surroundings. I imagined that would include is far south as kent and auburn they have many farmlands, obviously not enough but will help $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2019 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ Yep, you'd need everything from the mountains to the Sound, from north of Everett to Olympia, to have a chance of supporting Seattle -- and still, no wheat there, so no bread etc. Dairies, but not enough truck farms. Mass starvation of those who don't die in the rioting or fall victim to gangs killing them for the contents of their cupboards. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 20, 2019 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ Hong Kong has over 7 million population. The target plateau has zero agriculture, and, while fresh water may be abundant, there are no aqueducts and no infrastructure for carrying water. In this scenario, I don't see how to avoid 20% population loss. I don't even see how to avoid 80% loss. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Dec 20, 2019 at 21:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Hasan Alsudani: But most people in the city when it is transported will be lifelong urbanites. They won't have a clue about how to survive in the wilderness, or even how to farm. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 20, 2019 at 23:13

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