First, on January 20th, 2017, the capitol cities of the Nuclear Club were destroyed by (very clean) 80 megaton nuclear blasts: Washington DC, Moscow, London, Paris, Beijing, New Delhi, Islamabad, Pyongyang and Jerusalem, plus Denver, Colorado.

Then, beginning seven days later on January 27th, Jormungandr emerged from the sea and steamrolled New York City and Jersey City. It also destroyed military bases, weapons manufacturing factories, land-based ICBM silos and mobile launchers in the USA, Russia and China, and every oil refinery and major metal smelter in the world with its heavy railguns over the course of the following day.

Next, over the course of about ten days, Jormungandr, the Snakebot of Doom has destroyed a whole lot of cities... or at least crushed those cities largest buildings. The list of steamrolled cities stands at:

New York City/Jersey City, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia , Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Calgary.

Buffalo, Mobile and Albuquerque were... less damaged, with 'only' a 400-odd metre-wide track of destruction passing through them rather than a seven and a half or more kilometre-wide path of destruction that the others suffered.

In all these destroyed cities, a great many residential dwellings remain undamaged, but the high-rise centres of these cities are flattened rubble.

So, by February 8th, 2017, North America - and to a lesser degree the rest of the world - has been hit hard. In the USA and Canada there are millions of people who have been evacuated from the cities steamrolled by Jormungandr, who do not have homes to which they can return. Petroleum supplies are being rationed severely, but are still dwindling and cannot be replenished, and repairing the refineries is impossible given the lack of operational metal smelters.

Just how bad is the humanitarian crisis that Jormungandr has created, and can it be mitigated?


Where answers include estimates of global deaths, I'm mainly interested in the periods of 0 - 1 month and 1 - 12 months since the appearance of Jormungandr on Jan 27th, 2017. For story reasons, estimates further out than 12 months from the appearance of Jormungandr are not useful.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Maybe it is time to create a Snakebot tag xD I love your questions $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ What is the logic (pattern) behind the destruction? What about things like the nuclear bomb that was left stuck in the mud in NC? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Q: why is your Jormungandr a "snakebot".. bot ? like in robot ? is there a computer inside ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Monty Wild how about underground nuke mine in Jormungandr's path? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ People will learn to live with Jorgmundr. I think the states are terminating their contact tracing programs, so we won't have to think about where the snakebot is going next. Probably everybody will be affected sooner or later, but most people in a smashed city should get out more or less OK, so why worry about it? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 13:25

2 Answers 2


It's not the end of civilization, but it's still really bad...

...because the modern world is a massive interconnected web that's already beginning to have a cascade failure and the snake just knocked over more dominoes.

Losing one major city is a humanitarian crisis that can be recovered from. New Orleans wasn't flattened when Hurricane Katrina hit, but was effectively turned from a productive city into a massive disaster zone.

What we're looking at here is worldwide destruction in cities that was only exceeded by the massive bombing campaigns (plus 2 nukes) in World War II. Although the total devastation is less, the selection of targets makes things far worse even in areas that escaped the steamrolling.

Multiple important capitals were vaporized. The nations most likely to be able to coordinate a global rebuilding campaign lost most of their leadership as well as the central offices of all those departments of various governable things.

Every oil refinery and every major metal smelter in every country is gone.

The good news is that most electrical plants that weren't blown up, steamrolled, or otherwise taken out as collateral damage would be coal or natural gas fired.

The bad news is that mining and moving coal uses a lot of gasoline and diesel burning equipment. Petroleum is being rationed, but once the last tankers, freight cars, and trucks full of refined oil products are unloaded, it will take many years before supplies get anywhere near 2017 levels.

The US and areas of Eurasia bypassed by our rolly polly snake o'doom probably breathed a sigh of relief, but that was premature. That 400 meter wide swath of destruction took out plenty of high voltage power lines as well as pipelines for oil and natural gas. Power grids must balance load and demand or else very big circuit breakers pop and very big fuses blow. Much of the US as well as significant areas in other countries would be blacked out.

The integration of the US grid is gone. Places near hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants should be back online fastest. Wind and solar were avalable then, but on a much smaller scale. Natural gas powerplants could be reactivated, but with so many damaged pipelines, many will have no way to resupply.

With little or no power, more and more municipal water plants will go offline. With no fuel for cars and trucks, repairing and resupplying all forms of utilities will rapidly become... extremely difficult.

Unfortunately for the people of Earth, there are very few who don't in some way rely on oil and electricity. A lucky few places might have a natural gas field with an intact pipeline connecting to a power plant. Others may still have power from nuclear or dams. The problem will be that even the megadams or biggest nuke plants can only produce so much power. Those left in the dark will migrate to the places with power, and eventually even strict rationing won't be enough to prevent rolling blackouts.

But wait, there's more!

Yes, if you are a good farmer with modern equipment, you can feed 100+ people with your labor. How will your crops reach those people? What happens to your yield without the top of the line hybrid seeds, without the high end fertilizers and pesticides, without the gasoline powered plowing, planting, and harvesting equipment?

The poorest farmers in the poorest countries will be the least affected, but even they will miss the benefits of the electric and gasoline powered civilization, even if the nearest power outlet is a 3 day walk away.

Assuming no mass looting and no epic battles to control the few remaining reliable sources of power (because we all know how well humans come together and sacrifice their own personal desires to unite for the common good in times of crisis), we're still looking at mass starvation around the world for at least a year or two.

Once a few smelting plants are online, coal fired steam locomotives can begin to move critical goods (including more coal). Natural gas lines can be repaired, getting a few more power plants back online. Others can by converted to burn coal (probably less efficiently than plants designed for coal in the first place). Oil refineries could eventually be rebuilt.

Rebuilding will be a long, slow, painful process. Civilization won't completely collapse, but getting back to 1950's level of living (with weird little bits of newer tech scattered about) in the more advanced countries woul take at least a decade, probably more.

My very rough guess is that we're looking at losing around 70-80% of global population between 2017 and 2022 due to direct and indirect effects.

Whether you think my estimate is too optimistic, too pessimistic, or just right, there is one more factor to consider.

Was steamrollering selected cities the final act in Jormungandr's performance, or would the snakebot go after some new target? If all the nuke plants and all the major hydroelectric dams went, that woul make rebuilding far harder. There are other targets that wouldn't be as immediately devastating, but that would still cause massive problems.

We have reason to believe Jormungandr has some sort of visual abilities and can likely read our languages. Large signs (and local radio transmissions) near wherever the snakebot is parked offering to discuss things might not be the worst idea to try. It would be best if whatever was left of the local government there seized all the radios. One hundred voices yelling different things won't help. One voice saying "Let's talk. What do you want?" might prove to be the key to preventing another wave of destruction (and, if not, maybe only the lone guy standing out there all by himself gets zapped instead of a globe-spanning reaction).

Edit: Let's play with casualty numbers a bit.

Excluding those killed directly, there would be many collateral deaths during the first month. The initial nukes were mostly clean (mostly), but even in the event of zero fallout, there will be a lot of people with flash burns (anywhere from severe sunburn all the way up to being partly cooked on one side). There will be numerous injuries from flying glass, lots of injured survivors in damaged and collapsed buildings. Don't forget the drivers (and pilots!) who were close enough to be temporarily or permanently blinded. Then there will be people in New York who will die from lack of medical care, plus those injured or killed when the railguns take out refineries and metal smelters. The continent crossing rolls will break power grids, taking a bad situation with electricity into a dire situation. So many injuries and so few hospital beds, and even fewer with reliable (or any) electricity. If it's an average winter in the northern hemisphere, there may be enough time to get people together into shelters to limite the number of deaths by hypothermia.

Although horrific in numbers, in terms of percent of total population, some luck and organisation could keep total deaths (attack, direct collateral, and consequential) within the first 30 days to "only" 1% of global population. That doesn't sound so bad until you realize that's about 75 million people, and is a best case scenario.

But it's still winter. Things begin getting really ugly in February.

Deaths in 1 year? (copied from my comment with a bit of editing) I'd think some areas of the world would already be having massive problems due to the fuel shortage even before Jormungandr decided to crush cities and roll through all those pipelines, rail tracks, powerlines, etc. Let's be VERY generous about governments (even in nations now missing their Capitols) doing all they could to conserve petroleum products and to stockpile and ration food. Even with that, harvests will be far down and things just keep getting worse. By January 2018, at least half of humanity is dead, and winter in the Northern hemisphere is far from over.

As above, I'm sticking with 5 years being a total reduction of 70-80% of total population? Why? In my mind, those numbers are an absolute best case scenario. Think about it. If MontyWild decides 99% of humanity is dead in the first year or two, it really doesn't matter what the doom snake does next. It will either wear itself out killing off smaller and smaller pockets of survivors or it will just hang out to see if humans can find a way back from the edge of extinction. Either way, that's not as exciting as leaving more than enough humans to rebuild civilization in a decade (or 2 or 3) with plucky young heros digging through printouts of Wikipedia pages (there won't be a lot of internet left after a year) to try to figure out what it will take to prevent the snakebot from delivering yet another unwelcome message to those who survived so far. Or, perhaps figuring out its next target in time to leave a very surprising welcome gift, like a large set of thermonuclear landmines.

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, there no talking to Jormungandr... it's programmed against that. The best it can do is to demonstrate what its objectives are by steamrolling cities in a somewhat suboptimal order, rather than sitting in the ruins of NYC and firing every scrap of steel that it can dig up at every structure in the world... $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Could you come up with an estimate of deaths over 12 months? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted, but suspect you're being a bit optimistic. Can't find my copy of Robert Vacco's "The Coming Dark Age" from 50 years ago, but there's even more cascading failure points that will increase the destruction and death toll. Even looking at somewhere as "safe" as here in Australia, with only a month or so of fuel on hand due to irresponsible politicians, it means we're back to muscle-powered agriculture. 90+% deaths in the first year for most places and 95+% in North America given the attacks impairing their response would be my guess, with half of those in the first 2 weeks. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - Deaths in 1 year? I'd think some areas if the world would already be having massive problems due to the fuel shortage even before Jormungandr decided to crush cities and roll through all those pipelines, rail tracks, powerlines, etc. Let's be VERY generous about governments (even in nations now missing their Capitols) doing al they could to conserve petroleum products and to stockpile and ration food. Even with that, harvests will be down and things just keep getting worse. By January 2018, at least half of humanity is dead, and winter in the Northern hemisphere is far from over. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - I've added an edit to the answer with a few more details about numbers. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 10:03

Most places would be fine.

To survive people need food, and most food is in the countryside. Once the city targeting aspect of the blast happened most people would seek to run away to the countryside.

Disabled people, old people, people who need life support, and people who need lots of medical services to live would be fucked, but most people would be able to survive.

Some major services would be damaged.

Each city has some large industries, and they would be damaged. Here are some examples.

New York City

Using this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_New_York_City I am making a guess at what is lost. For your story you could do similar things for every city.

Wall street would be broken. The city is high on the list and most stock market people would be dead. This is going to make liquidity tighter after, with more people having trouble getting loans to rebuild.

Silicon alley and a lot of internet links would be broken. This would damage a lot of websites and internet infrastructure. Verizon Communications say, would be wrecked.

A lot of doctors would be dead. There are a lot of healthcare people in New York, and they're gonna be crushed. People who rely on healthcare are gonna die en masse.

Their manufacturing is gonna be wrecked. They process a lot of food, so a lot of canned food that people need to survive is no longer gonna be produced.

A lot of media buildings are there. The reporting services needed to warn people of danger will be devastated. Likewise, a lot of film industries are there, so people won't be making as many disaster films any more.

Jersey city is pretty small. Nothing of great value would be lost.

Boston is more valuable. A lot of healthcare research goes on there. Anyone with a rare cancer is gonna be worse off for all the deaths. It has a massive student population, who are all gonna die along with the city's future.

Montreal has a lot of valuable stuff. but by this point, people will probably be evacuating cities, and so more stuff will be saved. A lot of plane industry stuff is too heavy to remove and will be lost. The rest of the services can probably be removed fairly easily.

Toronto is Canada's tech hub. A lot of industries similar to New York City will be wrecked. The internet will be damaged, financial services will be damaged, and generally a lot of Canada's economic power will be damaged. Canada will lose a lot of its manufactured goods, though less than America because more will have been driven to the countryside.

Philadelphia is a big financial hub, but a lot of its stuff will have been removed by this point. People will have fled, and while a lot of the economy will have been lost they have nothing too essential that can't be carried out.

Pittsburgh did matter as the hub of the steel industry, but just offers a lot of generic and common services now. Most people will have fled, allowing it to recover.

And by this point, people will have probably had time to remove even heavier equipment, so the rest should be fine.

It will suck, but they can rebuild in the countryside and recover. A lot of people will die, but humans are resilient and ready to prepare for vengeance against snakebot.

  • $\begingroup$ What about the fact that it is January/February, i.e. winter in the US/Canada. How much difference will that make? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ If it snows heavily that might add a day more two extra to how long it takes to flee. Snowplows and flamethrowers will need to be mobilized to clean the roads. That would mean a few more cities get wrecked. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ People need food. Food needs energy, particularly diesel. And food needs fertilizers. Without fuel and chemical industry, food supply collapses almost immediately. The US will lose at least 90% of its production capacity, and more in the civil war for the last resources. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ Chicago wasn't destroyed, and they're the ones that make most fertilizer with the help of CF industries. And it would suck losing oil refinaries, but they're far from the most expensive part of oil manufacturing. People could rebuilt, and use ethanol fuels as a substitute. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep Chicago was definitely destroyed, it's been on the list all along in both questions. The highest population US city that didn't get hit was Phoenix (and I still can't work out why). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:28

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