From Natural Catastrophes to Human Tragedies: 40 Facts About Gruesome Disasters

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1Great Seattle Fire

Great Seattle Fire

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

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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6Lake Peigneur disaster

Lake Peigneur disaster

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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11Oppau explosion

Oppau explosion

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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

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16San Bruno Pipeline explosion

San Bruno Pipeline explosion

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.

17. The Wanggongchang gunpowder factory explosion of 1626, in Beijing, China killed 20,000 people and was heard 150 km away. Victims were stripped of their clothing due to the force of the blast. The cause behind it has never been determined.

18. West Loch disaster was a maritime accident that sank 6 ships and killed nearly 200 Americans in Pearl Harbor during World War 2 in 1944. It was censored and classified until 1960 and thus very little known is known about the disaster.

19. In 1989, 96 people were killed at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England after they were crushed due to overcrowding. Although match attendees and hooliganism were first cited as the cause, a 2016 inquiry found the police to be at fault due to their mismanagement of the crowd.

20. In the Balvano train disaster of 1944, over 500 people illegally riding a steam-hauled freight train died of carbon monoxide poisoning when the train stalled on a steep gradient in a tunnel in Basilicata, southern Italy.

21Burnden Park disaster

Burnden Park disaster

The Burnden Park disaster was a human crush that occurred on 1946 at Burnden Park football stadium in England. The crush resulted in the deaths of 33 people and injuries to hundreds. The bodies were then left covered on the sidelines and the game later restarted, with only a sawdust line separating players from corpses.

22. The Kaprun disaster was a fire that occurred on a skiing resort train as it passed through a tunnel in Austria. 155 people died and the case was marked by blatant disregard to justice.

23. During the Ozone disco fire of 1996, 162 people died at a nightclub in Quezon City. It is worst fire in Philippine history. Jaydee's ‘Plastic Dreams’ was the last track playing as people died.

24. In 1975, a “once-in-2000-years” flood caused the failure of the Banqiao dam in China, which killed 171,000 people and destroyed nearly 6 million buildings.

25. Limnic Eruptions are a form rare natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide suddenly erupts from deep lake waters, forming a gas cloud capable of suffocating wildlife, livestock, and humans. Lake Nyos in Cameroon had a limnic eruption in 1986 and killed more than 1700 people in their sleep.

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