50 Bizarre Facts about Gruesome Disasters

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1Great Whiskey Fire

The Great Whiskey Fire of Dublin killed 13 people in 1875, but none of them perished as a result of smoke inhalation or burns. All victims died of alcohol poisoning by drinking the whiskey from the river of burning whiskey that ran through the streets of Dublin that night.


2. The worst sports disaster took place in 29 C.E. in a cheap wooden stadium in Fidenae, 8 miles north of Rome. It collapsed during a crowded gladiator game and killed at least 20,000 people. The Roman Senate responded by requiring that future stadiums be inspected and certified.


3. In 1937, a gas leak in the basement of a local school in New London, Texas caused a massive explosion which killed almost 300 children and teachers. It is the deadliest school disaster in US history. Adolf Hitler even sent his condolences by telegram.


4. The Chernobyl disaster would have been a lot worse if three engineers hadn't volunteered to swim through radioactive water to open valves and drain the liquid to prevent a steam explosion.


5. In 2004, more than 300 people died in a supermarket fire in Paraguay because the owners shut the doors so that people wouldn’t leave without paying for the merchandise.


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6Sultana disaster

The worst maritime disaster in US history was the Sultana disaster. It was a steamboat in which 1192 souls perished in 1865 after its boilers exploded just outside Memphis. Not very many people heard about it since news coverage focused on the killing of John Wilkes Booth the previous day.


7. No alarms went off on the day of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion because they had been disabled to spare workers from being woken up by false alarms.


8. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of New York City and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. 146 garment workers, most of the victims being women between the ages of 14-23 perished behind the doors of the factory which were locked to prevent worker theft. Many had to jump out of windows to try and escape the blaze.


9. During the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, fishermen in South India said they saw with their own eyes “the reality of generations of legends…the remains of ancient temples and hundreds of refrigerator-sized blocks, all briefly exposed before the sea swallowed them up again.”


10. The infamous Great Seattle Fire of 1889 also killed 1 million rats, which completely eliminated the town's major rodent problem.


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11Halifax explosion

The death toll of the Halifax explosion would have been significantly higher if not for a lone railway dispatcher. The railyard had evacuated after being warned of the impending explosion, but one man ran back to telegraph halt orders to all inbound trains for Halifax, saving hundreds of lives.


12. In 1985, a volcano in Colombia that was covered in glaciers erupted, instantly melting the glaciers. Two hours later, a 100 feet deep flood of rock and water traveling 39 feet per second leveled an entire nearby village named Armero, killing 20,000 out of its 29,000 residents.


13. On a day in which there was fog heavy enough to reduce visibility to less than 500 yards, two Boeing 747s had a head-on collision on the runway of the Tenerife Airport in Canary Islands, which resulted in 583 casualties and the deadliest accident in aviation history.


14. A massive earthquake struck Japan in 1923, causing a fire tornado that incinerated 38,000 people in 15 minutes and it got so hot that people’s feet got stuck to melting tarmac preventing them from running away.


15. In 1980, an oil drilling company misinterpreted the coordinate reference system causing it to puncture the salt mine below it and draining the entire Lake Peigneur into it.


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16Kamaishi City tsunami

Out of the 1,000 deaths in the Kamaishi City tsunami of 2011, only 5 were school-aged children. 3,000 children from two elementary schools were saved because one professor who survived a 2004 tsunami insisted on rigorous tsunami evacuation training.


17. Bhopal gas disaster was the worst industrial disaster ever killing close to 4000 people. In 1984, more than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, immediately killing at least 3,800 people and caused significant morbidity and premature death for many thousands more. The American CEO of the company was arrested, let out on $2100 bail and never came back to India to face charges.


18. In 1989, a train disaster in Russia killed 575 people all because of a gas leak. Estimates of the size of the explosion have ranged from 250–300 tons of TNT equivalent to up to 10,000 tons of TNT equivalent. Without anyone knowing, a faulty gas pipeline 3,000 feet from the line had leaked natural gas liquids and weather conditions allowed the gas to accumulate across the lowlands, creating a flammable cloud.


19. The Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster was one of the worst industrial accidents in the US. Between 476 to 1,000 workers eventually died of silicosis in the 1930s after a silica vein was struck boring the tunnel.


20. In 1921, workers at an ammonium nitrate factory in Oppau (now in Germany) tried clearing a clogged silo with dynamite. The resulting explosion killed 500 people and left 6500 homeless.


21Ryongchon disaster

The 2004 Ryongchon disaster in North Korea killed 160 and injured up to 3000 people when a train full of gasoline crashed into a train full of butane. Many children were blinded by looking at the blast out of school windows and the shockwave sent glass projectiles into their face.


22. In 1957, an explosion occurred at a plutonium plant in the USSR, resulting in the third-worst nuclear accident in history. The government kept it secret for 19 years.


23. During World War 2, a munitions accident in a Port Chicago, California became the world's largest explosion ever recorded before an atom bomb was tested. It accounted for 15% of African-American naval deaths for the entire war.


24. In 1769, a single lightning stroke struck the city of Brescia, Italy hitting gunpowder storage. The resulting explosion killed 3,000 people and destroyed one-sixth of the city.


25. The 2010 San Bruno Pipeline Explosion created a reported 1000 foot tall wall of flames and a 1.1 Earthquake. It destroyed 38 homes, killing 8 people including a 44-year-old woman named Jacqueline Greig. She worked at the California Public Utilities Commission trying to replace outdated gas lines.

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