Top 10 Man-Made Catastrophes
As a race, we appear to have an affinity when it comes to killing each other and ourselves. In the past, there have been many accidental incidents and disasters contributing towards much destruction and death- all of which have been completely man-made. Here are ten of those for your perusal.
10. Baghdad Bridge Stampede
On August 31 2005, 953 people were killed in the Iraqi capital as a result of a panicked stampede, following several rumours of an imminent suicide attack. Most the of the dead were Islamic pilgrims on their way to the shrine Imam Musa al-Kazim, one of the 12 Shi’a Imams. The vast crowds were already unsteady following a mortar attack earlier in the day, which an insurgent group linked to al-Qaeda later took responsibility for. When claims of a suicide attack started circulating around the million strong group, many panicked and tried to flee the area over the Al-Aimmah Bridge across the river Tigris.
9. Great Fire of London
In the mid-1600’s London was one of the largest cities on the planet, and certainly the largest in the UK. The element which posed the greatest threat to such built-up areas of the time was of course fire. With no real precautions in place, a fire which started in a bakery on the city’s ‘pudding lane’ on September 2nd 1666 was able to rage on for 3 whole days. Tearing its way through the central infrastructure of the city, the fire claimed over 13,000 houses and 80 churched in this short amount of time.
8. MV Dona Paz
The Philippine passenger ferry MV Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker in the shark infested waters of the Tablas Strait on December 20th 1987. The tanker with which the ferry collided soon caught fire, quickly enveloping the Dona Paz too- it spread causing destruction throughout both ships. As though this wasn’t bad enough, there were no available life jackets on-board- causing the overcrowded vessel to go down with most of its passengers still on board. This incident claimed the lives of over 4,000 people and is known as the worst peacetime maritime disaster ever.
7. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Known as one of the most environmentally detrimental human accidents in history, this spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska on the 24th of March 1989. The tanker, Exxon Valdez, was en-route to Long Beach, California when it struck a reef in the sound- spilling an amount of oil argued to be between 200,000 and 700,000 barrels worth. The effects upon the surrounding areas was devastating, although claiming no human lives- the spill severely affected local wildlife.
6. The Great Smog
In a truly sobering sequence of events, many of London’s population were hit hard by the effects of nearby industry when a short period of freak weather conditions combined with industrial pollutants to consume the city in a layer of thick smog. In the weeks following, several thousand fatalities were reported as a direct result of the smog playing havoc the respiratory systems of those exposed to it. Following the incident, several pieces of legislation were passed in an effort to better restrain the cities levels of harmful pollution.
5. Benxihu Colliery Explosion
Located in Benxi, Liaoning- China- this coal mine was seized by the Japanese during the Second World War. It was during this dark time that a coal dust/gas explosion occurred killing around 1,500 workers. The incident is commonly noted as the biggest disaster of its kind in the history of the coal mining industry. The initial destruction caused by the explosion was intensified in terms of eventual casualties due to the actions of the Japanese guards, they are said to have sealed the pit entrances in an attempt starve the fire of oxygen whilst there were still workers underground.
4. Halifax Explosion
The natural harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia became the site of the largest accidental man-made explosion in human history when 2 ships carrying arms and bound for the European front collided a short distance from the shoreline. After burning for a short while one of the ships, the SS Mont-Blanc exploded with such a force that its cloud of debris and smoke travelled almost 2km into the air- also causing a tidal wave which engulfed the other ship, Imo as well as causing havoc on the shoreline. Almost 2,000 people lost their lives as a result of the accidental collision, many of them civilians on the shoreline.
3. Tenerife Airport Disaster
This is another example of accidental collision causing the unnecessary death of many people. The tranquil holiday island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, was shaken to its core on March 27 1977 when 2 Boeing 747’s collided on its airports runway. The accident is attributed to the heavy fog which lay over the island on the day, and also the failure of one pilot to secure final take-off authorisation. The KLM aircraft, which was attempting to take off, collided with a taxying Pan Am flight- resulting in both aircraft succumbing to numerous explosions- 583 people lost their lives.
In April of 1986 for the first time since the nuclear age began some 40 or 50 years earlier, an unplanned nuclear scale explosion occurred. It happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine, which at the time constituted part of the USSR. The explosion released around 400 times more nuclear fallout than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and the effect was huge. Nuclear rain fell all over Europe, with many of those in the immediate few hundred miles of the plant suffering most greatly. The amount killed by this disaster is something still intensely debated, mostly due to the ambiguous nature of radiation poisoning; it is likely to still be killing even now.
The most destructive of industrial accidents in recorded history occurred in the city of Bhopal, India on the evening of December 3rd 1984. A local pesticide plant suffered a lapse which saw a large amount of water unknowingly entering a separate tank containing methyl isocyanate. The chemical reaction caused by this mixture gradually began heating tank- a misfortune which resulted in toxic gas polluting the cities atmosphere. The air essentially became poisonous over a very short period- leading to the deaths of 10,000 citizen in just 3 days. Many more died in the weeks following as a result of the gas, at the hands of horrific diseases.
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