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Citywide Evacuation

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"Suetonius, however, with wonderful resolution, marched amidst a hostile population to Londinium, which, though undistinguished by the name of a colony, was much frequented by a number of merchants and trading vessels. Uncertain whether he should choose it as a seat of war, as he looked round on his scanty force of soldiers, and remembered with what a serious warning the rashness of Petilius had been punished, he resolved to save the province at the cost of a single town. Nor did the tears and weeping of the people, as they implored his aid, deter him from giving the signal of departure and receiving into his army all who would go with him. "
The Annals by Tacitus, verse 33
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There is a city full of innocents. Men, women, children; civilians. But danger is coming, and because those civilians live in the city each and every one of them is in grave danger. Maybe it's a Big Bad hoping to sack or massacre the city, maybe it's an impending natural disaster. Either way, it's too late to prevent what's coming and if people stay there they will die.

So they evacuate. They leave the city behind in order to escape with their lives. The local military or government might be organizing the evacuation (which would count as a Pet the Dog moment for them as it shows them extending effort to save civilian lives), or they might be trying to prevent it (either because they want to prove they can defend their cities or because they are what the civilians are fleeing from), or they might just be leaving civilians to their fate. Either way, people will still be leaving in a Mass-Exodus.

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The people might take up residence in a new place, or they may return to their homes and try to rebuild once the danger has passed.

This can also be used as a way to show wide-scale destruction during a battle while justifying No Endor Holocaust.

When the relevant authority does not order such an evacuation, it may qualify as a massed Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.

If the people are fleeing from war or raids, then they are War Refugees. If someone tries to kill or otherwise prey upon these refugees, then that is Sink the Lifeboats (when applied to civilians it is a potent way to Kick the Dog or even cross the Moral Event Horizon). An unsuccessful evacuation may result in a Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam.

Compare with Abandon Ship (when a ship is being abandoned instead of a city) and Homeworld Evacuation (when an entire planet is being abandoned).

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the English dub of Dragon Ball Z, after Vegeta and Nappa destroy a city, the translators try to reassure viewers/appease censors by having Nappa say, "That area may have been evacuated, but it will give them something to think about." Despite the fact that civilians had been shown in previous scenes.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode "Abandoned City: REVERSAL PROCESS", the entire city of Fukuoka is evacuated after a nuclear device is discovered. While Borma handles the defusing process, Batou takes some time to have a lengthy chat with the season's Big Bad on the rooftop of the building the bomb is located in.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, if NERV spots an Angel in time, they sometimes send out an order to evacuate Tokyo-3. This makes traffic jams clog the highways, so it's debatable how effective it is.note 
    • More often, they just send everyone to underground shelters and pull most of the essential buildings underground. Tokyo-3 was built for survival, after all.
  • In the first episode of Pacific Rim: The Black, the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps has ordered the evacuation of the entire continent of Australia. People are actually ordered to make their way to major cities on the coasts to be evacuated, but of course that's also where the Kaiju attack.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, in preparation for the fall of the moon, the residents of Kamina City are loaded into the appropriately-named Arc Gurren and sent into space. The rest of the world's population retreats into underground bunkers, but Rossiu, the orchestrator of the evacuation, secretly knows this won't be sufficient and is just giving them false hope while trying to save the city's population.

    Comic Books 
  • Immortal Hulk: The Avengers evacuate Georgetown, Iowa before their battle with the Hulk. This was the right call, as they cross the Godzilla Threshold and use Code: Helios, destroying the town.
  • Minister Ilahn of Cadador had threatened to cut off the floating city-state of Torbel's fuel supply over trade contract negotiations in Issue 3 of Meridian, but it isn't until Issues 18 and 19 that Torbel's problems are revisited. Turns out Ilahn made good on his threat and the city of Torbel running on fumes, unable to support its own weight. With the foundations of the town crumbling and sections of the city falling down all around them, protagonist Sephie and her Pirates of the Wind rally all the flying ships they can to evacuate the citizens of Torbel. Even with Sephie's incredible powers bolstering the carrying capacity of the evacuation fleet and her crew risking their lives to rescue trapped and wounded Torbellians, hundreds of the city's residents perish when the city eventually cracks down the middle and falls into the ocean.

    Comic Strips 
  • An early Doonesbury strip had The Smart Guy Bernie set up a simulated nuclear war for the Walden students. Playing the Secretary of the Interior, B.D. determines that he hasn't enough National Guardsmen to evacuate both Chicago and Detroit. Bernie urges him to decide quickly, as Soviet missiles are crossing the Bering Strait. With a shrug, B.D. declares, "I'll bag Detroit. It's a ghost town anyway," and focuses his resources on clearing out Chicago.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: When Ami attacks the city of Salthalls, its citizens evacuate after her presence unleashes a magical catastrophe inside it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Dinosaur has a huge falling meteor strike the island home of Aladar and the lemurs. They narrowly survive the impact blast wave and swim the channel to the mainland.
  • In Frozen II after seeing an intense wind rip through Arendelle followed by all the fires going out and all the water disappearing, Elsa realizes that Earth is next and orders the entire city to evacuate before the earthquake hits.
  • In Megamind, the titular Megamind disguises himself to train Hal the cameraman, who accidentally ingested Megamind's Super Serum, to be Titan, his new superhero foe to replace the recently deceased Metroman. When Megamind reveals himself to have been training Hal to be a superhero simply because he was bored of not having an Arch-Enemy to fight, Hal decides that as Titan he would use his powers to show everyone he's done being pushed around by everyone. After Megamind narrowly escapes Titan's murderous wrath, Titan starts knocking down buildings in a fit of rage, and the authorities are seen guiding large crowds of refugees out of the city.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens shows San Francisco being evacuated as Gallaxar's giant robot approaches the city.
  • Wreck-It Ralph has the inhabitants of Sugar Rush conduct a mass evacuation of their game when the cy-bugs from Hero's Duty begin to overrun their world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • An Atomic Train was approaching Denver, requiring the city to be evacuated before the train crashes. Outside the usual problems, there was a "Colorado Free People's Militia" who took over the gas station and charged $20/gallon per gas (compared to the then-current price of approximatly $1/gallon). The atomic blast and EMP occurred while the evacuation was in progress, disabling most vehicles.
  • The climax of Avengers: Age of Ultron focuses on the heroes trying to evacuate the entire population of Sokovia. However, they're unable to get all the inhabitants out before Ultron lifts the city into the sky to become a makeshift meteor. Fortunately, Nick Fury and the new S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive with the Helicarrier to help evacuate the rest of the civilians before the city is destroyed.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, King T'Challa orders that the capital city of Wakanda be evacuated so that its citizens will be spared from the damage caused by Thanos's forces.
  • In Dante's Peak, the mayor of the eponymous community calls her people together in a meeting to discuss the danger of a dormant volcano which is on the verge of eruption. Although she is not ready to issue the evacuation order, she advises them that they do not have to wait if they want to leave. Of course, the eruption starts during the meeting.
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Up to Eleven as the climatologist, trying to impress on the government the scale of the ongoing catastrophe, produces a Spreading Disaster Map Graphic, draws a line through the middle of the United States, and says "Evacuate everyone south of this line." The President reluctantly agrees and in later scenes crowds of people are seen crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico.
  • Deep Impact. The Biederman fragment of the comet will impact the Atlantic ocean, causing a massive tsunami that will destroy many coastal cities. New York City (and presumably others) is evacuated once this becomes clear.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: Lando issues an evacuation to the people of Cloud City before the Empire could send in more troops. He does this partly so that he, Leia, Chewie, and the droids can easily escape from the city, but also because he is genuinely concerned for his people.
  • Godzilla:
    • Godzilla (1998): Godzilla's arrival in New York prompts Manhattan to evacuate to New Jersey.
    • Godzilla (2014): A city in Japan is evacuated when the first M.U.T.O hatches.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019):
      • More of an Islandwide Evacuation, but Monarch attempt this at Isla de Mara when they realize Emma is going to likely awaken the local Titan. The evacuation is only completed after Rodan breaks free and razes the island with many people still there.
      • After things go From Bad to Worse, with the whole world turned into a Death World as Ghidorah begins wreaking his Apocalypse How, the US President imposes martial law and the US Army direct a mass exodus of everyone in Boston. Which means the city is fortunately empty except for the main cast once the Final Battle razes it to the ground.
    • Shin Godzilla: When Godzilla comes on land a second time, people start being evacuated from the Tokyo wards. Notably, a few straggling civilians unintentionally cause an attack to be delayed at the last second.
  • Independence Day: They're not mandatory evacuations, but the President tells the citizens of the US that if they feel compelled to leave a city, they should do so immediately and in an orderly fashion. The citizens get the "immediately" part.
  • In Pacific Rim, Kaiju invasions have become commonplace enough that major cities on the Pacific coast have installed huge underground shelters for use during Kaiju attacks. Hong Kong's entire population is able to evacuate to the shelters in less than an hour—leaving a completely empty city for the big Jaeger-Kaiju brawl.
  • Save Yourselves!: Through some voicemails and texts, Su and Jack eventually learn that the pouffes' invasion has forced a mass evacuation of New York City.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, King Theoden orders the evacuation of the city of Meduseld, and directs its residents to shelter in the distant refuge of Helm's Deep. Unfortunately, his former right hand man knows that's exactly what he will do.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953): When the Martian war machines approach the city of Los Angeles, the population is evacuated to the nearby San Gabriel hills.

    Literature 
  • Ciaphas Cain: In Caves of Ice, Cain immediately gets working on evacuating the mining station. Everyone stares at the Hero of the Imperium suggesting a retreat... before he points out that the civilians will just get in the way of the military, also strengthening his caring-hero reputation in the process (the fact that he was intending to be on the first shuttle to leave goes undetected by everyone but him). Later this proves to be an excellent decision, as the main danger is no longer from ork hordes but a Necron legion, the one enemy Cain will unquestioningly sacrifice his heroic reputation to avoid facing, as Necrons are pretty much invincible in his series.
  • Invoked in The Clone, where the government orders an evacuation of Chicago to protect the population from the title monster, but it is still underway when the "clone" is killed at the end of the novel (which takes place over the course of 24 hours).
  • Dark Skies: When Mudamora is invaded by the armies of enemy Derin, its capital Mudaire becomes a haven for War Refugees from the surrounding countryside. But then its wells become contaminated and the enemy is approaching, so Princess Malahi orders a citywide evacuation. The problem is, the only way to evacuate is by ship and there are very few ships for such a huge number of people.
  • Keith Laumer's short story "Field Test". When the People's Republic launches an invasion of Concordiat territory in an attempt to destroy the North Power Complex and Cold City, the authorities start an evacuation of the city to save the populace from annihilation.
  • Guild Hunter: In the book Archangel's Storm, the angel Raphael has Manhattan evacuated as Big Bad Lijuan prepares to blow it to kingdom come.
  • The Star Craft novel Liberty's Crusade depicts the Confederacy evacuating Mar Sara's cities after the Protoss glass the system's other inhabited planet Chau Sara. Ostensibly this is because the cities aren't defensible, but Sarah Kerrigan argues to protagonist Michael Liberty that the Confederacy is just trying to look like it's doing something to help. Ultimately it just leaves the civilian population to be picked off piecemeal by the Zerg in the countryside before the Protoss glass the planet anyway.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Rohirrim's hilltop city being evacuated to the more defensible fortress of Helm's Deep. Of course, they didn't count on Saruman having breaching explosives...
  • In The Stand, most of the residents of Boulder, Colorado evacuate over a mistaken belief that the superflu 'Captain Tripps' was secretly created at the weather research station nearby. Some residents remained, but far less than other metropolitan areas. This resulted in far fewer bodies to be disposed of and much less rioting/looting in the final stage of the breakdown, leaving Boulder ready to be easily reoccupied afterwards as the capital of the Boulder Free Zone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Season 1 finale of Arrow, the Glades needs to be evacuated because of Malcolm Merlyn's earthquake machine. However, this is the largest, most densely populated section of the city where high poverty means many residents have no means of evacuating other than traveling by foot. Several hundred people die as a result.
  • Sunnydale was evacuated in the build up to the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even some of the more noble demons ditched town... which must say something special about the threat as the townsfolk normally turn a blind eye to the forces of evil regularly causing problems in their city.
  • Chernobyl naturally features the real-life example below.
  • Doctor Who: London has been evacuated in multiple:
    • "The Web of Fear", due to an invasion of Yeti in the Underground.
    • "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", due to, well, an invasion of dinosaurs.
    • London is evacuated at Christmas in "Voyage of the Damned" because of the stuff that happened on the previous two Christmases.
  • For the first time in franchise history, the finale of Power Rangers: Beast Morphers has the entire city evacuate due to Evox absorbing the main Morph-X tower and preparing to take over the Morphin Grid.
  • Quite a few Sliders episodes in the first two seasons had the main cast arrive either in the middle of a mass evacuation of San Francisco (or its Alternate Timeline equivalent) or after the evacuation has happened but before the disaster strikes.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE:
    • In the Bohrok arc, Po-Koro is invaded by the menacing Tahnok swarm, with its citizens traveling to Ga-Koro for refuge.
    • During the events of Mask of Light, the city of Ta-Koro is attacked by the villainous Rahkshi, and the citizens evacuate as the city sinks into the volcano it once floated over.
    • The advanced city of Metru Nui was evacuated after it was badly damaged by Makuta and the Visorak attacks, with the Toa moving the residents to Mata Nui island while the city was repaired. A thousand years later, the residents moved back to the now-restored city following Ta-Koro's destruction.

    Video Games 
  • Colossatron: Massive World Threat: General Moustache mentions that all citizens are evacuated prior to Colossatron attacking a country. It’s a good thing, too, since this usually tends to end with the country destroyed.
  • Unfortunately begun too late in Dragon Age: Inquisition, when the Big Bad's forces attack the village of Haven because it's the headquarters of the Inquisition. The leaders immediately take steps to evacuate the surviving citizens, thanks to a secret "back door" of sorts known only to one of them, but by the time they're able to mobilize several people have already died.
  • Frostpunk: In "The Fall of Winterhome" scenario, the final stretch of the scenario involves evacuating the citizens from Winterhome due to a terminally failing generator. For this, you need to pour in a ton of resources to fix up the nearby abandoned Dreadnaught, stock it up with enough coal and food supplies, and transport people to it and keep others from escaping the city on their own while avoiding overcrowding, all while keeping the generator up before it shuts down for good.
  • Halo:
    • After the Prophet of Regret attacks the city of New Mombasa on Earth, it and neighboring Old Mombasa are evacuated en masse. By the time the Master Chief arrives in Halo 2, the city is completely deserted save for military forces, but the audio logs of Halo 3: ODST present recordings of what happened amongst the fleeing civilians in the hour before the Chief could land.
    • Halo: Reach: The level Exodus focuses on Noble Six aiding soldiers in evacuating the inhabitants of New Alexandria, first by securing a landing pad for dropships and then reclaiming missile turrets to provide covering fire for civilian aircraft.
    • Halo Wars: The level Arcadia City has the Spirit of Fire's troops defending civilian transports until they can safely lift off. One is destroyed prematurely when it tries to flee early, and the rest must be defended from waves of Covenant aircraft and long-range plasma artillery.
  • In Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch, at the climax of the Mega Man V chapter, the remains of the Evil Robot from Mega Man 8 suddenly appears, possesses Sunstar and subsequently assimilates the Wily Star. Upon returning to Earth, Dr. Wily proposes a plan to build a new and improved Gamma in collaboration with Dr. Light and Dr. Cossack in order to fight back against the new threat, and in the subsequent playable segment, you witness King coordinating an evacuation with his robots in preparation for the upcoming showdown, complete with a monitor showing most of the Robot Masters of Mega Man & Bass doing crowd control.
  • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future: By the time the finale happens, the entire "future London" is evacuated.
  • Attempted multiple times in Spec Ops: The Line due to the massive sandstorms threatening Dubai. The official evacuation amounted to "Ship out everyone rich and/or important and leave everyone else behind". Konrad and the Damned 33rd attempted to rescue the survivors, but when the storms got worse they had to return to the city or risk losing everyone. Walker can call for evac during the ending but at that point, he's the only one left.
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm: As Kerrigan prepares to attack Korhal, the best-defended City Planet in Dominion space, crown prince Valerian asks a reprieve until he can evacuate the civilians. Kerrigan tries to scare him off, but when he holds fast, showing himself a more compassionate man than his father, she relents.
  • Batman: Arkham Knight starts off with one of these, faced with an imminent attack by Scarecrow, the citizens of Gotham quickly abandon the city; the only remaining inhabitants are either criminals, hostages, the GCPD, or members of the Bat family.
  • Undertale: On a Genocide Route, the Monster Towns of the Underground learn that the Player Character is murdering everything in their path and evacuate before their arrival. One boss monster pulls a You Shall Not Pass! against the PC and dies happy that she bought time for the monsters to get to safety.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the entire citizens of the Sector 7 slums evacuated when they realize that Shinra is about to drop an entire plate on them just to spite Avalanche.

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales: In "Raiders of the Lost Harp", the people of Duckburg evacuate as a giant stone minotaur arrives to take back the magic harp Scrooge took.
  • Invader Zim: In the episode "Walk For Your Lives", the city evacuates to escape Zim's slow-speed explosion. But because it's so slow, the initial panic pretty quickly dies down, and everyone just slowly wander away from the blast area.
  • During the finale of The Legend of Korra, Republic City is evacuated due to Kuvira planning to invade with a Humongous Mecha armed with a Wave-Motion Gun alongside her Mini-Mecha army. All but a handful of civilians are gone by the time Kuvira shows up and they spend the battle trying to escape. Good thing too, as significant portions of the city are leveled during the fighting.
  • Steven Universe sees Beach City evacuated a number of time:
    • In the Season 1 finale, upon the arrival of Peridot, Jasper, and Lapis on their hand-shaped spaceship, with the Crystal Gems fighting it to no avail, Steven calls a "political favor" to Mayor Dewey to evacuate everyone in Beach City. Mayor Dewey, facing gratitude during the previous episode, uses his campaign vehicle to tell the citizens to evacuate to the hills.
    • The fifth season sees the Crystal Gems actively coordinate safety measures with the townsfolk, including a plan to rapidly evacuate to unspecified shelters. The plan goes into action in [[Steven Universe S5E23 "Reunited" "Reunited", though it proves unnecessary, as the only thing in-town damaged was Steven's house (which Greg sheltered in, but somehow came out unscathed).
    • Steven Universe: The Movie sees the town being evacuated again because of Spinel's Injector, mostly to Little Homeworld and the warehouse Sadie Killer and the Suspects held their concert in. This proves very wise, as destroying the Injector saves the rest of the Earth, but leaves the city in ruins. Despite the Crystal Gems having to pick up some straggles, it's stated everyone is safe and accounted for.

    Real Life 
  • Throughout her history, London has been no stranger to this trope concerning crises:
    • Back when the city was called Londinium, the Roman city, as noted by the page quote above, was evacuated during Boudica's Rebellion to prevent its people from suffering the same fate as those in Camulodunum (now Colchester).
    • Downplayed during World War II, as children were evacuated to distant places in order to keep them safe from German bomb raids.
  • As word of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion came, the citizens of the city of Pripyat and its surroundings evacuated, and to this day, the city became a Ghost Town.
  • New York City, as a general rule, and Manhattan in particular, is notoriously difficult to evacuate. On September 11th, an estimated 1,000,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by boat alone. (This is considered to be the largest maritime evacuation in world history at 500,000 - 1,000,000 people in the first 8 hours. Compare this to the former record holder, the Dunkirk evacuation, which had just below 340,000 in a total of 9 days.) Many more people evacuated by other means, mostly by walking over bridges.
  • One of the major criticisms leveled at FEMA post-Hurricane Katrina was its failure to evacuate New Orleans; two notable examples include turning down an offer from Amtrak to evacuate several hundred people using trains it was moving out of the city (the trains left the city empty), and not using school buses to evacuate people (with pictures of flooded parking lots full of school buses becoming one of the iconic images of Hurricane Katrina). As a result, emergency shelters in the city quickly became overwhelmed due to the unexpectedly high numbers of people sheltering in them and doing so for a much longer time than expected.
  • In 2017, a very active hurricane season necessitated the evacuation of multiple major US cities such as Houston, Tampa, and Miami. Citizens found themselves stranded on the highways as the roadways simply were not meant to handle millions of people moving in a single direction simultaneously.

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