7 Market-Moving Disasters of 2010


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A series of natural and manmade disasters descended on the world in 2010 -- straining resources, challenging companies, moving stocks and wreaking havoc.

Among them were, of course the BP ( BP) oil spill,whose environmental, emotional and colossal financial impact in the Gulf of Mexico will not soon be forgotten.

The Massey Energy ( MEE) coal mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners continues to anger, as mining companies and regulations come under heavy scrutiny and Massey continues to receive mixed headline news. In Chile, 33 trapped miners met a much different fate from the ones at Massey, having been freed after being trapped deep beneath the earth's surface for a record 69 days.

At the beginning of the year, big businesses reached out to Haiti in the form of food, money and aid when the country was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake.

Domestically, within the U.S., river floods overwhelmed the southern region of the U.S.,killing scores of people, destroying homes and triggering evacuations, and recalling memories of Hurricane Katrina. The most severe damage was in areas outside Nashville and across the middle and western parts of Tennessee. In San Bruno, south of San Francisco, a PG&E ( PCG) pipeline exploded, killing at least four people. A series of analyst downgrades for the company promptly ensued.

As the world moved closer to the New Year, big snowstorms forced several global airports to shut down, resulting in the cancellation of thousands of flights. Still, this inconvenience paled in comparison to the mass paralysis of airports around the world in spring, as massive clouds of vision-obscuring ash erupted from a volcano in Iceland.

In light of all this, as we begin the new year, TheStreet compiles an album of disastrous events that moved the world in 2010. Click on for the year in disasters, in pictures....


Originally Published in May, 2010: Three major European airports have resumed services on Monday, May 17, after a thick cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland cleared up and a no-fly zone was lifted, the Associated Press reported.

As many as 1,000 flights in Europe were disrupted, mainly by closures at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Though flights have resumed at these hubs, authorities are urging travelers to contact their airlines before heading to the airport, warning that it would take time for the airlines to clear the backlog of delayed flights.

Bloomberg reported that British Airways had experienced significant disruptions to it services, while major Europe discount carrier Ryanair had to cancel over 200 flights. Air France-KLM had to redirect flights bound for various cities in Europe.

Cathay Pacific Airways ( CPCAY) redirected two flights headed for London and one bound for Amsterdam from Hong Kong, and Singapore Airlines diverted two European-bound flights as well, according to Bloomberg.

Air traffic control agency Eurocontrol said 28,000 flights were expected in Europe on Monday, roughly 1,000 less than usual.

On Friday, May 14, CNN reported that ash from the Eyjafjallajokul volcano had led to the closure of Iceland's main airport, Keflavik International Airport, in Reykjavík.

As demonstrated by the ash clouds' return after a period of silence following its April outburst, they could be gone one moment and back again another, unannounced. It appears, then, that airlines and travelers will have to deal with the Iceland Eyjafjallajokul volcanic ash cloud nuisance for an indefinite amount of time, given the challenges of predicting where the wind will carry the debris next.


Originally published on May 24, 2010.: With regards to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch West Virginia mine, the coal producer has continued to deny allegations of mining safety violations, even as the company's chief executive Don Blankenship testified in front of a senate committee hearing last Thursday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Blankenship said that while company officials had resisted installing a more complex ventilation plan at the mine, one mandated by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, he couldn't determine whether any of this had anything to do with the explosion; he added that the company values safety over production.

In a separate congressional hearing on Monday, miner Stanley Stewart described a poorly ventilated mine, where unstable methane gas was difficult to dilute, according to the Wall Street Journal. The mine was "a ticking time bomb," he said.

Stewart also described situations where mine supervisors would change mine ventilation controls while the miners were working, WSJ says; this is illegal. Stewart, was several hundred feet underground when the mine explosion occurred on April 5.

In the meantime, its impact on the seaborne metallurgical coal market appears likely to be limited.

Shortly after the blast, analysts and coal sector observers produced varying reports on how much financial damage the tragedy would result in for Massey. Read on for analyst reactions that took place shortly after the explosion -- and note that views may have changed since then.


Originally Published on Aug. 4, 2010: The year 2010 is one that will live in infamy for British oil giant BP.

Yet as former BP CEO Tony Hayward sails off into the sunset and gets his life back as a behind-the-scenes power broker for the oil company, BP itself seems to be in a relatively better position than ever expected.

From the top hat to the bottom kill, from the foot-in-mouth disease contracted by BP top brass throughout the oil spill to the embarrassing revelations about a government oversight process for offshore drilling that make Russian business relationships look good in comparison, from all-but assurance from market prognosticators that BP was fated for bankruptcy to the current stable state of affairs for the British oil company's shares, there's plenty of blame to go around, and plenty of lessons to be learned, courtesy of BP and the rest of the oil spill cast of characters.

What follows is a brief history of the BP oil spill, where we were and where we are today, and what it means for investors seeking to navigate the next market disaster, certain to arrive in one form or another in 2011.



This screen grab taken from video, Omar Reygadas, center, the seventeenth miner to be rescued from the San Jose Mine near Copiapo, Chile, is shown after his rescue Wednesday, Oct. 13

Originally published on Oct. 13, 2010: After more than two months of entrapment in the far depths of the underground, 17 Chilean miners have been pulled to freedom. It is the longest that anyone's been trapped underground, and these miners have survived the ordeal.

At 1:38 p.m., Omar Reygadas, 56 was the 17th miner to be pulled out of the mine.

According to AP, Reygadas was credited for helping to organize life below ground and had survived other collapses at the mine. He is a widower, has six children, 14 grandchildren and and four great-grandchildren. One of them was born while he was trapped in the mine, AP, said.

The final phase of the rescue mission began shortly before midnight.


Originally published on Sept. 13, 2010.: PG&E shares were among the market's biggest losers on Friday after a company pipeline exploded in the neighborhood of San Bruno, south of San Francisco, on Thursday night. The explosion killed at least four people.

One utility market expert who spoke to several utilities in addition to PG&E on Friday said that there was no support for the idea that insurance would not be adequate, though the issue of negligence on the part of PG&E does need to be addressed. Political risk associated with energy market regulators in California, where there are ongoing reviews of utility rates, are another factor that can't be quantitatively evaluated in this case. In any event, the utility market expert compared the $1 billion loss in market value to what they estimated would be a potential liability of less than $200 million.


Originally published on May. 3, 2010: While some on Fox News were calling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill "Obama's Katrina" over the weekend, a true flooding disaster was playing out across southern U.S. states.

The flooded Cumberland River continued to swell on Monday, after weekend storms across Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky that killed at least 21 people.

The heart of Nashville was flooded on Monday, but the sun was shining.

The Cumberland River was expected to reach 11 feet above flood stage by Monday afternoon, but subside thereafter, and the most historical buildings in downtown Nashville, like Gaylord Entertainment's ( GET) Grande Ole Opry House, seemed safe from the worst-case scenario.


Originally published on Jan. 15, 2010: U.S. companies are stepping up and lending their support and dollars after the devastating 7.0 Haiti earthquake shook the country earlier this week.

Everyone from banks to retailers -- many of which were struggling themselves to stay afloat amid the recession -- are lending support.

General Electric ( GE) made one of the largest donations, of $2.5 million. It has already given $1 million to the Red Cross and $500,000 to UNICEF. The company said it will match all contributions made by employees.

Financial institutions also turned their attention away from all the bonus-and-taxing drama to help. Citibank ( C) announced that it is giving $2 million, while Bank of America ( BAC), Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Goldman Sachs ( GS) each pledged $1 million.

Other companies like Coca-Cola ( KO), Google ( GOOG) and Lowe's ( LOW) also agreed to spend $1 million for relief efforts.

Royal Caribbean ( RCL) and Comcast ( CMCSA) also pledged $1 million.

Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT) pledged $600,000 -- $500,000 in monetary relief and $100,000 in pre-packaged food kits -- to Red Cross. It has also launched a Web site that allows customers to donate.

Pledges are also coming from Kellogg ( K), Kraft Foods ( KFT), Western Union ( WU), General Motors ( GM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC).

Other organizations are lending their services to help victims. American Airlines ( AMR) and FedEx ( FDX) have offered to fly supplies to Haiti. Drug maker Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) will provide pharmaceutical and nutritional products along with a $1 million grant, while 3M ( MMM) has announced that it is looking to see what medical supplies it can provide.

Likewise, Crocs ( CROX) said that it will donate shoes to Haiti victims and Walgreen ( WAG) announced offering both monetary relief and supplies.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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