List of industrial disasters

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Victims of Bhopal disaster march in September 2006 demanding the extradition of Warren Anderson from the United States.

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 disasters, 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 facilities, wood houses, and 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 and the environment of another country.

Defense industry[edit]

Energy industry[edit]

Deceased Liquidators' portraits used for an anti-nuclear power protest in Geneva.
  • October 1957: The Windscale fire, the worst nuclear accident in the United Kingdom's history, released substantial amounts of radioactive contamination into the surrounding area at Windscale, Cumberland (now Sellafield, Cumbria). The incident led to about 100 to 240 cancer deaths.[2][3][4]
  • May 1962: The Centralia mine fire began due to a fire on the surface accidentally igniting the mine’s shallow coal vein, forcing the gradual evacuation of the Centralia borough. The fire continues to burn underneath the abandoned settlement.
  • October 1963: The Vajont Dam overflow, caused by a massive landslide, leading to the complete destruction of several villages and towns, and 1,917 deaths in northern Italy. The accident was anticipated by numerous warnings and signs of dangers disregarded by the electrical company and government.
  • March 4, 1965: The Natchitoches explosion: A 32-inch gas transmission pipeline, north of Natchitoches, Louisiana, belonging to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline exploded and burned from stress corrosion cracking on March 4, killing 17 people. At least 9 others were injured, and 7 homes 450 feet from the rupture were destroyed. The same pipeline also had an explosion on May 9, 1955, just 930 feet (280 m) from the 1965 failure.
  • March 1967: The Torrey Canyon supertanker 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 failed in the Henan Province of China due to extraordinarily heavy precipitation from the remnants of Typhoon Nina and poor construction quality of the dam, which was built during the 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 and making it the worst technical disaster ever.
  • March 16, 1978: The Amoco Cadiz, a VLCC owned by the company Amoco sank near the northwest coast 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 from an oil tanker in history.
  • March 28, 1979: Three Mile Island accident. Partial nuclear meltdown near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mechanical failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve 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.[5]
  • March 1980: The Alexander L. Kielland, a Norwegian semi-submersible drilling rig, capsized while working in the Ekofisk oil field, killing 123 people.
  • June 3, 1979: Ixtoc 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 Lake Peigneur, a freshwater lake before the accident, into a saltwater lake.
  • February 15, 1982: Newfoundland, Canada. The mobile offshore oil rig Ocean Ranger was struck by a rogue wave off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada and sank with the loss of all 84 crew.
  • January 7, 1983: An explosion in Newark, New Jersey was felt for about 100–130 miles from the epicenter, but only claimed 1 life, and injured 22–24 people.
  • July 23, 1984: Romeoville, Illinois, Union Oil refinery explosion killed 19 people.
  • November 19, 1984: San Juanico Disaster. An explosion at a liquid petroleum gas tank farm killed hundreds and injured thousands in San Juan Ixhuatepec, Mexico.
  • April 26, 1986: Chernobyl disaster. At the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Soviet Union, (modern-day Ukraine) a test on reactor number four went out of control, resulting in a nuclear meltdown. The ensuing steam explosion and radiation killed up to 50 people with estimates that there may be between 4,000 and several hundred thousand additional cancer deaths over time, although this has not yet been observed[6] and was estimated based on the contested linear no-threshold model. Nuclear fallout could be detected as far away as Canada. The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, covering portions of Belarus and Ukraine surrounding Pripyat, remains contaminated and mostly uninhabited. Pripyat itself was totally evacuated and remains as a ghost town, although teeming with wildlife.[7]
  • May 5, 1988: Norco, Louisiana, Shell Oil refinery explosion. 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 killed 167 men. The total insured loss was 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 24, 1989: Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, hit Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef, dumping an estimated minimum 10.8 million US gallons (40.9 million litres, or 250,000 barrels) of crude oil into the sea. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur.[8] 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds died, as well as at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, and billions of salmon and herring eggs were destroyed.[9] Overall reductions in population have been seen in various ocean animals, including stunted growth in pink salmon populations.[10] Sea otters and ducks also showed higher death rates in following years, partially because they ingested prey from contaminated soil and also from ingestion of oil residues on their hair/feathers due to grooming.[11]
  • April 22, 1992: 1992 Guadalajara explosions. A leak of gasoline into the sewer system caused 12 explosions in downtown Guadalajara, Mexico between 10:05 and 11:16 a.m., killing 206 - 252 people and injuring 1,800. Eight kilometers of streets were destroyed or seriously damaged.
  • 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 three percent of that nation's gasoline supply. Over 100 were injured, and 15 were confirmed dead, including employees of Jacobs, Fluor and BP. BP has since accepted that its employees contributed to the accident. Several level indicators failed, leading to overfilling of a knockout 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.
  • December 19, 2007: T2 Laboratories explosion and fire. Runaway reactor for production of gasoline additives explodes at Jacksonville, Florida, killing four.
  • December 22, 2008: Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill. 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash were released when a dike ruptured at an ash storage pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee.
  • August 17, 2009: Sayano–Shushenskaya power station accident. Seventy-five people were killed at a hydroelectric power station when a turbine failed. The failed turbine 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.
  • February 7, 2010: 2010 Connecticut power plant explosion. A large explosion occurred at a Kleen Energy Systems 620-megawatt, Siemens combined cycle gas- and oil- fired power plant in Middletown, Connecticut, United States. Preliminary reports attributed the cause of the explosion to a test of the plant's energy systems.[12] The plant was still under construction and scheduled to start supplying energy in June 2010.[13] The number of injuries was eventually established to be 27.[14] Five people died in the explosion.[15]
    Deepwater Horizon in flames after the explosion
  • April 20, 2010: Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven oil platform workers died in an explosion and fire that resulted in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered the largest offshore spill in US history.[16]
  • March 11, 2011: As a result of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami,
  • February 24, 2012: Köprü Dam in Adana Province, Turkey. A hydroelectric dam whose diversion tunnel seal was breached. 97 million cubic meters of water flooded the area downstream of the dam. The accident and flood killed 10 workers.
  • October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy caused a Consolidated Edison 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 and exploded, destroying more than thirty buildings. It was the fourth-deadliest rail accident in Canadian history.
  • July 23, 2018: Laos dam collapse. Part of a hydroelectric dam system under construction collapsed in Champasak Province, Laos. The collapse lead to widespread destruction and homelessness. 40 people were confirmed dead, at least 98 more were missing, and 6,600 others were displaced.[21]
  • June 21, 2019: Philadelphia Refinery Explosion. An explosion at Philadelphia Energy Solutions' refinery destroyed the alkylation unit, where crude oil is converted to high octane gas, and led to the planned closure of the financially troubled plant. While the explosion and fire only led to a few minor injuries, it was catastrophic for the business.[22]

Food industry[edit]

Manufacturing industry[edit]

Mining industry[edit]

See Mining accident for more.

Other industrial disasters[edit]

  • March 11, 1864: The Great Sheffield Flood. The Dale Dyke Dam, at Bradfield, South Yorkshire, collapsed when its reservoir was being filled for the first time. At least 240 people died, and 5000 properties were flooded.[52] Historian Peter Machan said: "In terms of Victorian England it was the greatest disaster in terms of loss of life, apart from maritime disasters".[53]
  • 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.[54][55][56]
  • September 21, 1921: Oppau explosion, Germany. Occurred when a tower silo storing 4,500 tonnes of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded at a BASF plant in Oppau, now part of Ludwigshafen, Germany, killing 500–600 people and injuring about 2,000 more.
  • 1927–1932: Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster, near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, United States. Over several years, 476 workers died from silicosis.
  • 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.
  • July 28, 1948: A chemical tank wagon explosion within the BASF's Ludwigshafen, Germany site caused 207 fatalities. 3,818 were injured, and 3,122 buildings were significantly affected.
  • January 9, 1959: In the midst of heavy rains, a failure of the small Vega de Tera dam at about 1:00 a.m. killed 144 of 532 inhabitants in downriver Ribadelago (Zamora, Spain) some minutes later. The dam was new (1956) but poorly built as usual in that period, when the Francoist regime was prioritizing economic development over construction quality. The town was partially destroyed and never recovered; afterwards, the survivors were moved out of the floodable area to a newly built nearby town (Ribadelago Nuevo, "New Ribadelago.") See Catástrofe de Ribadelago (in Spanish.)
  • February 3, 1971: The Thiokol-Woodbine Explosion at a Thiokol chemical plant in Georgia (United States) killed 29 people and seriously injured 50.
  • 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.
  • 1972–1976: Dioxin spills at Times Beach, Missouri, causing the evacuation and disincorporation of the 2,000-strong town starting 1983. It was the largest civilian exposure to dioxin in the United States' history.
  • 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.
  • April 27, 1978: Willow Island disaster. A cooling tower for a power plant under construction in Willow Island, West Virginia collapsed, killing 51 construction workers. The cause was attributed to placing loads on recently poured concrete before it had cured sufficiently to withstand the loads. It is thought to be the largest construction accident in United States history.[57]
  • October 12, 1978: Spyros disaster. The Greek tanker Spyros exploded at Jurong Shipyard in Singapore on October 12, 1978. It killed 76 people, and remains the worst accident, in terms of lives lost, in Singapore's post-war history. It is also Singapore's worst industrial accident
  • February 24, 1984: Occurred on the night in Cubatao, Brazil around 23:30 a gasoline pipeline exploded in the favela of Vila Sao Jose killing at least 508 people, most of them children.[58][59] The tragedy turned the eyes of the world to Cubatao and laid bare another problem: industrial pollution, since the 70s, gave the city the nickname "Death Valley".
  • November 1, 1986: The Sandoz disaster in Schweizerhalle, Switzerland released tons of toxic agrochemicals into the Rhine River.
  • June 28, 1988: Auburn, Indiana. Improper mixing of chemicals at Bastian Plating Company killed four workers in the worst confined-space industrial accident in U.S. history; a fifth victim died two days later.[60]
  • October 23, 1989: Phillips Disaster. An explosion and fire killed 23 and injured 314 in Pasadena, Texas and registered 3.5 on the Richter magnitude scale.
  • July 5, 1990: An explosion and fire occurred at the Arco Chemical Company complex in Channelview, Texas. 17 people were killed. Five were permanent employees and the remaining 12 were contract labor employees. An area approximately the size of a city block was completely destroyed; no one in the area survived the explosion.[61]
  • May 1, 1991: Sterlington, Louisiana. An explosion at the IMC-operated Angus Chemical nitro-paraffin plant in Sterlington, Louisiana, killed eight workers and injured 120 other people. There was severe damage to the surrounding community. The blasts were heard more than eight miles away.
  • August 21, 2000: Pingxiang steel plant explosion. An oxygen generator exploded in a steel plant in Pingxiang, Jiangxi, China.[62] At least 19 steel workers were killed.[63][64]
  • September 21, 2001: Toulouse, France. An explosion at the AZF fertilizer factory killed 29, injured 2,500, and caused extensive structural damage to nearby neighbourhoods.
  • October 19, 2009: Ottawa, Canada. A boiler explosion at the Cliff Central Heating and Cooling Plant killed one person, and three others suffered injuries.[65]
  • October 4, 2010: Alumina plant accident. Ajka, Kolontár, Devecser and several other settlements, Hungary. The dam of Magyar Aluminium'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 led to the explosion and fire.[66]
  • 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.[67]
  • April 17, 2013: Fertilizer 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. Fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings damaged or destroyed.
  • June 20, 2013: Coteau-du-Lac, Quebec, Canada. Two women were killed in a fireworks warehouse explosion.[68]
  • July 31–August 1, 2014: 2014 Kaohsiung gas explosions. From the underground-installed gas pipelines of a petrochemical factory, a large-scale leakage (which had been occurring for more than three hours) led to a series of gas explosions in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan at the midnight between the two days. Thirty-two people were killed and 321 others were injured.
  • August 12, 2015: Binhai, Tianjin, China. Two explosions within 30 seconds of each other occurred at a container storage station at the Port of Tianjin in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin, China[69] 173 people died as a result.[70]
  • August 23, 2016: Chittagong, Bangladesh. An incident of gas leakage happened at a fertilizer company in port city of Chittagong. The fertilizer company belongs to Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Limited (CUFL) located near the shore of Karnaphuli River. No deaths were reported but 25 people had fallen ill due to toxic ammonia inhalation.[71] The investigation team found that tank was maintained by unskilled workers instead of skilled engineers which resulted in leakage.[72]
  • September 10, 2016: Gazipur, Bangladesh. A boiler explosion in a packaging industry in the town of Tongi, Gazipur, led to the death of 23 workers. The explosion was so powerful that it made part of the four story building collapse. The explosion also triggered a fire which spread to surrounding areas.[73]
  • May 9, 2018: Patel Milmet Dam failure. An embankment dam in Nakuru County, Kenya, burst during heavy rains, killing at least 48 people.[74]
  • May 7, 2020: Visakhapatnam gas leak. A gas leakage accident at LG Polymers chemical plant in Gopala samudram, Vizag. The leakage had spread over a radius of about 3 km, affecting the nearby areas and villages. 11 were killed and more than 1000 people were injured as of 7 May 2020.[75][76]
  • 3 June 2020: 2020 Dahej chemical plant explosion. Five deaths and more than fifty people injured.[77]
  • August 4, 2020: 2020 Beirut explosions. A massive explosion of a large cache of ammonium nitrate at the Port of Beirut flattened much of the port and damaged buildings throughout the city. As of September 3, 2020, at least 190 people have been reported dead and another 6,500+ injured.[78]
  • 4 November 2020: 2020 Ahmedabad blast resulted in twelve deaths and injuries to nine people.[79]

See also[edit]


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