This article lists notable industrial disasters, which are disasters caused by industrial companies, either by accident, negligence or incompetence. They are a form of industrial accident where great damage, injury or loss of life are caused.
Other disasters can also be considered industrial disaster, if their causes are rooted in the products or processes of industry. For example, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was made more severe due to the heavy concentration of lumber industry, wood houses, fuel and other chemicals in a small area.
The Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents is designed to protect people and the environment from industrial accidents. The Convention aims to prevent accidents from occurring, to reduce their frequency and severity, and to mitigate their effects. The Convention addresses primarily industrial accidents in one country that affect the population or the environment of another country. The Convention was drafted following the Seveso disaster and Sandoz disaster.
December 6, 1917:Halifax, Canada . The Halifax explosion. A ship loaded with about 9000 tons of high explosives destined for France caught fire as a result of a collision in Halifax harbour, and exploded. The explosion killed about 2000 and injured about 9000.
August 9, 1965:Little Rock AFB in Searcy, Arkansas. 53 contract workers were killed during a fire at a Titanmissile silo. The cause of the fire was determined to be a welding rod damaging a hydraulic hose allowing hydraulic vapors to leak and spread throughout the silo, and ignited by an open flame.
April 10, 1988:Ojhri Camp. A military storage center in Rawalpindi Pakistan exploded, killing more than 1,300 people.
July 11, 2011:Evangelos Florakis Naval Base explosion Cyprus. A munitions dump explosion. 13 people were killed; among them the captain of the base, twin brothers who were serving there as marines, and four firefighters.
May 1962: The Centralia, Pennsylvania coal mine fire began, forcing the gradual evacuation of the Centralia borough. The fire continues to burn in the abandoned borough.
March 1967: The Torrey Canyonsupertanker was shipwrecked off the west coast of Cornwall, England, causing an environmental disaster. This was the first major oil spill at sea.
August, 1975: The Banqiao Dam flooded in the Henan Province of China due to extraordinarily heavy rains and poor construction quality of the dam, which was built during Great Leap Forward. The flood immediately killed over 100,000 people, and another 150,000 died of subsequent epidemic diseases and famine, bringing the total death toll to around 250,000—making it the worst technical disaster ever.
March 16, 1978: The Amoco Cadiz, an VLCC owned by the company Amoco (now merged with BP) sank near the Northwest coasts of France, resulting in the spilling of 68,684,000 US Gallons of crude oil (1,635,000 barrels). This is the largest oil spill of its kind (spill from an oil tanker) in history.
March 28, 1979:Three Mile Island accident. Partial nuclear meltdown. Mechanical failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, allowed large amounts of reactor coolant to escape. Plant operators initially failed to recognize the loss of coolant, resulting in a partial meltdown. The reactor was brought under control but not before up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases were released into the atmosphere.
June 3, 1979:Ixtoc I oil spill. The Ixtoc I exploratory oil well suffered a blowout resulting in the third largest oil spill and the second largest accidental spill in history.
November 20, 1980: A Texaco oil rig drilled into a salt mine transforming the Lake Peigneur, a freshwater lake before the accident, into a salt water lake.
February 15, 1982:Newfoundland, Canada. The mobile offshore oil rig Ocean Ranger is struck by a rogue wave off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada and sinks with the loss of all 84 crew.
November 19, 1984:San Juanico Disaster, an explosion at a liquid petroleum gas tank farm killed hundreds and injured thousands in San Juanico, Mexico.
April 26, 1986:Chernobyl disaster. At the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Prypiat, Ukraine a test on reactor number four goes out of control, resulting in a nuclear meltdown. The ensuing steam explosion and fire killed up to 50 people with estimates that there may be between 4,000 and several hundred thousand additional cancer deaths over time. Fallout could be detected as far away as Canada. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, covering portions of Belarus and Ukraine surrounding Prypiat, remains contaminated and mostly uninhabited. Prypiat itself was totally evacuated and remains as a ghost town.
May 5, 1988:Norco, Louisiana, Shell Oil refinery explosion after hydrocarbon gas escaped from a corroded pipe in a catalytic cracker and was ignited. Louisiana state police evacuated 2,800 residents from nearby neighborhoods. Seven workers were killed and 42 injured. The total cost arising from the Norco blast is estimated at US$ 706 million.
July 6, 1988:Piper Alpha disaster. An explosion and resulting fire on a North Sea oil production platform kills 167 men. Total insured loss is about US$ 3.4 billion. To date it is rated as the world's worst offshore oil disaster in terms both of lives lost and impact to industry.
March 23, 2005:Texas City Refinery explosion. An explosion occurred at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. It is the third largest refinery in the United States and one of the largest in the world, processing 433,000 barrels of crude oil per day and accounting for 3% of that nation's gasoline supply. Over 100 were injured, and 15 were confirmed dead, including employees of the Fluor Corporation as well as BP. BP has since accepted that its employees contributed to the accident. Several level indicators failed, leading to overfilling of a knock out drum, and light hydrocarbons concentrated at ground level throughout the area. A nearby running diesel truck set off the explosion.
December 11, 2005:Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire. A series of explosions at the Buncefield oil storage depot, described as the largest peacetime explosion in Europe, devastated the terminal and many surrounding properties. There were no fatalities. Total damages have been forecast as £750 million.
August 17, 2009:Sayano–Shushenskaya power station accident.75 people were killed at a hydroelectric power station when a Turbine failed. The Turbine that failed had been vibrating for a considerable time. Emergency doors to stop the incoming water took a long time to close, while a self-closing lock would have stopped the water in minutes.
March 2011:Fukushima I nuclear accidents in Japan. Regarded as the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster, there were no direct deaths but a few of the plant's workers were severely injured or killed by the disaster conditions resulting from the earthquake.
October 29, 2012:Hurricane Sandy caused a ConEdison power plant to explode, causing a blackout in most of Midtown Manhattan. The blue light emitted from the arc made places as far as Brooklyn glow. No person was killed or injured.
July 6, 2013:Lac-Mégantic, Quebec Canada. Lac-Mégantic derailment. Forty seven people were killed when there was a derailment of an oil shipment train. The oil shipment caught fire, exploded and more than thirty buildings were destroyed. It is the fourth deadliest rail accident in Canadian history.
January 15, 1919:The Boston Molasses Disaster. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on a hot summer day, the area still smells of molasses.
February 6, 1979: The (Roland Mill), located in Bremen, Germany, was destroyed by a flour dust explosion, killing 14 and injuring 17.
May 10, 1993:Kader Toy Factory fire. A fire started in a poorly built factory in Thailand. Exit doors were locked and the stairwell collapsed. 188 workers were killed, mostly young women.
May 13, 2000:Enschede fireworks disaster. A fire and explosion at a fireworks depot in Enschede, Netherlands resulted in 22 deaths and another 947 were injured. About 1,500 homes are damaged or destroyed. The damage is estimated to be over US$ 300 million in insured losses.
November 24, 2012:Dhaka Tasreen Fashions fire. A seven story factory fire outside of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killed at least 112 people, 12 from jumping out of windows to escape the blaze.
April 24, 2013:2013 Savar building collapse. An eight story factory building collapse on the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, killed 1129 people. The building contained five garment factories that were manufacturing clothing for the western market.
October 21, 1966:Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil-tip that occurred in the Welsh village of Aberfan, killing 116 children and 28 adults.
July 19, 1985:Val di Stava dam collapse took place in the village of Stava, near Tesero, Italy, when two tailings dams used for sedimenting the mud from the nearby Prestavel mine, failed. It resulted in one of Italy's worst disasters, killing 268 people, destroying 63 buildings and demolishing eight bridges.
January 30, 2000:Baia Mare cyanide spill took place in Baia Mare, Romania. The accident, called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since Chernobyl, was a release of 100,000 tons of cyanide contaminated water by an Aurul mining company due to reservoir broke into the rivers Someş, Tisza and Danube. Although no human fatalities were reported, the leak killed up to 80% of aquatic life of some of the affected rivers.
April 5, 2010:Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, West Virginia, United States. An explosion occurred in Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal. Twenty-nine out of thirty-one miners at the site were killed.
November 19, 2010:Pike River Mine disaster in New Zealand. At 3:45pm, the coal mine exploded. Twenty-nine men underground died immediately, or shortly afterwards, from the blast or from the toxic atmosphere. Two men in the stone drift, some distance from the mine workings, managed to escape. (Extract from Royal Commission of Enquiry Report on Pike River.)
Other industrial disasters
January 20, 1909: Chicago Crib Disaster. During the construction of a water intake tunnel for the city of Chicago, a fire broke out on a temporary water crib used to access an intermediate point along the tunnel. The fire began in the dynamite magazine and burned the wooden dormitory that housed the tunnel workers. 46 workers survived the fire by jumping into the lake and climbing onto ice floes or the spoil heap near the crib. 29 men were burned beyond recognition, and approximately 60 men died. Most of the remainder drowned or froze to death in the lake and were not recovered.
1932-1968: The Minamata disaster was caused by the dumping of mercury compounds in Minamata Bay, Japan. The Chisso Corporation, a fertilizer and later petrochemical company, was found responsible for polluting the bay for 37 years. It is estimated that over 3,000 people suffered various deformities, severe mercury poisoning symptoms or death from what became known as Minamata disease.
April 16, 1947:Texas City Disaster, Texas. At 9:15 AM an explosion occurred aboard a docked ship named the Grandcamp. The explosion, and subsequent fires and explosions, is referred to as the worst industrial disaster in America. A minimum of 578 people lost their lives and another 3,500 were injured as the blast shattered windows from as far away as 25 mi (40 km). Large steel pieces were thrown more than a mile from the dock. The origin of the explosion was fire in the cargo on board the ship. Detonation of 3,200 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer aboard the Grandcamp led to further explosions and fires. The fertilizer shipment was to aid the struggling farmers of Europe recovering from World War II.
June 1, 1974:Flixborough disaster, England. An explosion at a chemical plant near the village of Flixborough killed 28 people and seriously injured another 36.
July 10, 1976:Seveso disaster, in Seveso, Italy, in a small chemical manufacturing plant of ICMESA. Due to the release of dioxins into the atmosphere and throughout a large section of the Lombard Plain, 3,000 pets and farm animals died and, later, 70,000 animals were slaughtered to prevent dioxins from entering the food chain. In addition, 193 people in the affected areas suffered from chloracne and other symptoms. The disaster lead to the Seveso Directive, which was issued by the European Community and imposed much harsher industrial regulations.
November 1, 1986: The Sandoz disaster in Schweizerhalle, Switzerland, releasing tons of toxic agrochemicals into the Rhine.
May 4, 1988:PEPCON disaster in Henderson, Nevada. Massive explosion at a chemical plant killed 2 people.
June 28, 1988:Auburn, Indiana, improper mixing of chemicals killed four workers at a local metal-plating plant in the worst confined-space industrial accident in U.S. history; a fifth victim died two days later.
May 1, 1991:Sterlington, Louisiana. An explosion at the IMC operated Angus Chemical Nitro-paraffin Plant Sterlington, Louisiana killed 8 workers and injured 120 other people. There was severe damage to the surrounding community. The blasts were heard more than 8 miles away.
September 21, 2001:Toulouse, France. An explosion at the AZF fertilizer factory killed 29 and injured 2,500. Extensive structural damage to nearby neighbourhoods.
October 19, 2009:Ottawa, Canada. An explosion at the Cliff Central Heating and Cooling Plant. The explosion of a boiler killed one person and three others suffered injuries.
October 4, 2010:Alumina plant accident. Ajka, Kolontár, Devecser and several other settlements, Hungary. The dam of Magyar Aluminium Zrt.'s red mud reservoir broke and the escaping highly toxic and alkaline (~pH 13) sludge flooded several settlements. There were nine victims including a young girl and hundreds of injuries (mostly chemical burns).
January 20, 2012:Burns Lake, British Columbia, Canada. At a wood mill two workers were killed and 20 others injured in a fire and explosion. A combustible dust environment lead to the explosion and fire.
November 8, 2012:Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Two people died and 19 were injured in an industrial processing plant belonging to Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, a manufacturer of health care products.
April 17, 2013:Fertiziler plant explosion in West, Texas, an explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas, 18 miles (29 km) north of Waco while emergency services personnel were responding to a fire at the facility. At least 14 people were killed, more than 160 were injured and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed.