Top 10 Worst Industrial Accidents

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Time and again the nature has tested our skills and will of survival by exposing the human race to many natural calamities devastating thousands of lives and property. However there have been no fewer instances of human actions being a reason of many calamitous accidents either. Since the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century, almost every part of the world has been exposed to the haphazard that followed due to the negligence or technical default or accidents in such industries millions of lives till date.

Below is the list of world’s ten worst industrial disasters:

10. Enschede Fireworks Disaster, Netherlands

Enshede Fireworks Disaster, Netherlands

Enshede fireworks disaster was a calamitous incident killing 23 people, injuring 940 and destroying over 1500 buildings as the fireworks exploded at the SE Fireworks depot on May 13, 2000 in the city of Enschede, Netherlands. It was discovered that a fire began in the work area of the central building at the depot where around 900kg of fireworks were stored. The fire then spread to two full containers that had been stored illegally outside of the building. The ignition caused the explosion of 177 tons of fireworks. It was also reported that SE had been audited and met all safety regulations and inspected as safe by the Dutch authorities only a week prior to the explosion thus highlighting the negligence to Dutch authorities.

9. Oppau Explosion, Germany

Oppau Explosion, Germany

One of the biggest chemical disasters happened in the Oppau, Germany plant of BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, on September 21, 1921 when a tower silo storing 4500 tonnes of a mixture of ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded. The explosion killed about 500-600 people and injured more than 2000. More than 80 percent of all buildings in Oppau were destroyed leaving 6500 people homeless. The exact cause of the accident could not be known as all those involved died in the explosion. However researches suggest that an inaccurate estimation of sulphate-nitrate could have been a reason. A few months before the incident the manufacturing process had been changed in a way which lowered the humidity level which is another estimated trigger for the explosion.

8. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Alaska

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Alaska

It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters claiming a huge toll on aquatic flora and fauna when on March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker targeted to Long Beach, California, hit the Bligh Island Reef, Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 260,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude over the next few days. Immediate effects of the spill included the deaths of as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2800 sea otters and hundreds of other sea creatures. As per reports, by 2010 there was still an estimated 23000 gallons of Valdez crude oil in Alaska’s soil, breaking down at less than 4% per year. The spill has continued to affect the sea animals in Alaska till date as a higher death rate and reduction in reproduction of many species have been noted since then.

7. Courrières mine disaster, France

Courrières mine disaster, France

Courrières mine disaster is the worst mining accident in Europe causing the death of 1099 miners including many children on March 10, 1906 in Northern France. The causes hypothesized for the explosion are an accident during handling of mining explosives and ignition of methane by naked flame of a minor’s lamp. Both the hypotheses have evidence favoring them and are generally expected as the reason for the explosion which claimed over a thousand lives.

6. Chernobyl Disaster, Ukraine

Chernobyl Disaster, Ukraine

The Chernobyl disaster occurred at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, Ukraine is considered to be the worst nuclear power plant disaster ever as the explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. On April 26, 1986, a fire began at the reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant as a result of a series of stem explosions which happened while attempting an emergency shutdown due to an unexpected power surge during a test. The disaster claimed the lives of 54 workers instantly and over the years almost 4000 people have died due to diseases from the projection to radiations.

5. Savar Building Collapse, Bangladesh

Savar Building Collapse, Bangladesh

One of the deadliest accidental structural failures in modern human history has been the collapse of an eight story commercial building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24, 2013 killing around 1129 people and injuring over 2500 people. The building contained garment factories, a bank and several other shops. While the bank and shops were closed after warnings were issued to avoid using the building since several cracks had appeared on the walls, the garment factories ignored the warning. The building collapsed in the morning leaving only the ground floor intact when around 3120 workers were present in the building. The collapse also earned the factory owners and Bangladeshi authorities severe criticism from all over the world for ignoring the workers’ safety.

4. The Halifax Explosion, Canada

Halifax Explosion, Canada

The largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons destroyed the entire Richmond district of Halifax, Canada when a cargo ship fully loaded with wartime weapons collided with a Norwegian ship November 6, 1917. The collision soon resulted in a fire and ignited the explosives on the cargo which resulted in a huge explosion killing or injuring anyone in the vicinity. Around 2000 people were killed and 9000 injured by fires, debris of explosion and collapsed buildings. The explosion also resulted in a Tsunami which resulted in further causalities including five children and wiped out an entire community.

3. Benxihu Colliery Explosion, China

Benxihu Colliery Explosion, China

The gas and coal-dust explosion in the Benxihu Colliery if reportedly world’s worst coal mine disaster ever killing 1549 people on the fateful day of April 26, 1942 which accounted for 34% of mine workers working that day. The explosion in the jointly controlled Japanese and Chinese colliery sent flames bursting out of the mine shaft entrance. Also the Japanese workers of the mines are blamed of increasing the death toll as they attempted to curtail the fire underground by shutting off ventilation and sealing pit without fully evacuating it thus trapping many Chinese workers underground to suffocate.  An investigation later conducted by the Soviet Union found that only some people died from the explosion while most deaths were due to the closing of ventilation after the initial explosion.

2. The Banqiao Dam Collapse, China

Banqiao Dam Collapse, China

The worst dam collapse ever killed an estimated 171,000 people in the floods of 1975. The causes of the dam failure were both natural and man-made. The amount of rainfall received by the area was double the amount the dam had been constructed to withhold. However investigations have also reported that the dam was poorly engineered and constructed making it vulnerable to such contingencies. On August 8 the dam collapsed and released a total of 15.38 billion m3 of water. The natural disaster coupled with man-made errors destroyed lives of over 250,000 people.

1. Bhopal Gas Tragedy, India

Bhopal Gas Tragedy, India

The worst industrial tragedy ever known was a result of utter negligence on part of a pesticide manufacturing company and incompetence of the government authorities. Over 500,000 people were exposed to the deadly methyl isocyanate and other chemicals leaking from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Ltd at Bhopal, India on the night of December 2-3, 1984. The gas leaked spread in the town through air and water killing 8000 people within two weeks and injuring 558,125 of which of which approximately 3900 were seriously and permanently disabled. UCC had been warned before of potential leakages though no real efforts were made to improve the situation finally leading to a disaster which claimed thousands of life.

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