It seems that for as long as man has been around, we have been destroying the Earth. Animals are going extinct at alarming rates, we’re burning through our resources, and war destroys cities and families. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, we destroy the Earth without even trying. Much of what we use to keep the world running is dangerous. Nuclear energy can have devastating effects on the environment if an accident happens, oil spills are extremely dangerous to clean up, and explosions can ruin everything in seconds. It seems as though if a disaster is capable of happening, it has at some point in time throughout our history.
Obviously, natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions are devastating but mostly unavoidable. When it comes to man-made disasters, that’s a different story. A manmade disaster occurs after either human intent or negligence leads to a devastating destruction. Sometimes one man can be capable of destroying the lives of many, and sometimes it takes a lot of people to cause such a huge mess. Regardless of what the cause was, man-made disasters happen all the time and each instance is unique in its own heartbreaking way.
The next 15 photographs showcase some of the worst man-made disasters in history. They are in no particular order, as some caused more of an environmental damage than casualties Some were controlled and are just a blemish in our history. Others still affect the way many people live even decades after it happened. They’re all still just as upsetting, and hopefully, there’s something we can learn behind all the devastation. Here are 15 Disturbing Images That Show The Worst Man-Made Disasters In History.
15. BP Oil Spill
The BP oil spill refers to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that occurred in The Gulf of Mexico in 2011. It is one of the largest oil spills in the history of time, releasing over 210 million gallons of oil into the gulf. The cause of the spill was determined to be negligence and gross misconduct. The violation of safety regulations and carelessness of the company to ensure something like this couldn’t have happened lead to the losing of lives and destruction of the environment. To imagine how difficult an oil spill can be, imagine having a glass of water, spilling oil into it, and trying to get it out. A simple image but that pretty much sums up what rescuers and environmentalists had to do in order to protect the wildlife and people who lived in the surrounding area. We’re still seeing effects from this today and hopefully, oil companies have learned from this horrifying mistake.
14. The Love Canal Toxic Waste Test
If you had a bunch of toxic chemical waste to get rid of, what might you do to dispose of it? if you’re Hooker Chemical company, a business responsible for making products such as perfume, dyes, and rubbers, you might decide to drain a canal and dump the waste into that. Years after the initial dump, they decided to sell the property they owned, bury the waste they had dumped, and allow the new buyers to build a school and residential houses right on top of all the chemical waste. It seemed like a perfect solution at first, until all the waste began to leak into people’s homes and water supplies! The chemical waste was full of carcinogens, chemicals known to cause cancer. About a third of the residents in the area showed a high amount of white blood cells with the potential to lead to leukemia.
13. Minamata Disease
However, there have been man-made disasters that lead to man-made diseases that have affected large portions of the population. One disease is referred to as the Minamata disease. The causation of this particular disease was yet another chemical company that decided to dump their products into civilian’s water supplies. Mercury was one of the biggest chemicals that got into the fish and water, leading to many people in the area, specifically Japan’s island of Kyushu, to consume the mercury. This had devastating effects on whoever consumed the substance and also deeply impacted the unborn babies of expecting women. Over 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, at least half of them losing their lives to the poisoning.
12. Guiyu Waste Spill In China
Guiyu, China is where the phone, laptop, or tablet you’re reading this on will probably go to die. It is one of the largest locations of electronic waste in the world. In Guiyu, the streets, as well as the surrounding nature, are filled with old electronics, such as computers, televisions, gaming system, and any other electronic device you can imagine. It’s strange to think we specifically send certain types of garbage to other countries, but it’s been happening for years. The physical waste is shocking, but worse is the toxic waste released into the air and water that results from scavenging through these items. The locals will burn plastics and rubbers to get to copper wires. Sometimes mercury is released into the air when burning. Many people who visit the area but don’t live there experience a burning sensation on their skin and eyes because of all the toxins that sit in the area.
11. Castle Bravo Explosion
Castle Bravo is the name given to the largest nuclear explosion the U.S. has ever seen. Intended to only be a test of a hydrogen bomb, the effects of the test caused many people on the surrounding islands to have to evacuate. The test took place on The Marshall Islands, and attempting to evacuate people from islands is surely not an easy task. Not to mention this only occurred 48 hours after the test, meaning the people were completely unaware that they were being exposed to radioactive waste caused by the bomb. Many island residents suffered radiation poisoning, and most who didn’t suffer immediate effects later began to grow tumors. It’s devastating to think that this was all just for a test, not even to cause anyone harm. However, it surely did, as well as show us the dangers these nuclear weapons can be. That never stopped our country from using them on more innocent civilians in the future.
10. Gulf War Spill
The 1990s saw the worst oil spill in history after the Iraqi forces deliberately released over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf in an effort to slow down attacking U.S. troops. It was an extremely pathetic and failed attempt as clearly that didn’t stop anyone from going to war with them. Unfortunately, the most harmed from the whole ordeal was the wildlife. Millions of fish and birds were affected by the spill and still are to this day. It’s terrifying to think that oil spills are somewhat common in retrospect, but to know that the largest was deliberately caused by humans is absolutely devastating. Low on money and running out of ideas, the Iraqi forces saw this as their best option to stop troops from attacking. All it really was, was just another devastating effect of a war that was going to happen anyway.
9. Jilin Chemical Explosion
In 2005 in Northeast China, the world saw another devastating chemical explosion at a petrochemical plant. The result was over 100 tons of toxic waste being released into the air as well as the water. Dozens were injured and lost their lives while over 10,000 people had to evacuate their homes. Imagine coming home from work one day, exhausted and excited to see your family, only to be told that you can’t go home and that you must evacuate everything or risk the effects of chemical waste being released into your environment. This happened in 2005, many years after similar disasters have happened. It’s sickening to think of the negligence that continues to happen within dangerous plants like this. This explosion was caused by poor safety regulations, something that should not happen inside any plant responsible for toxic and chemical waste.
8. Seveso Toxic Gas Release
Seveso is the name given to yet another chemical disaster that occurred in Italy in the 1970s. It happened when workers in the plant were producing the chemical trichlorophenol. We’re not going to try to explain how that process works to you right now. Basically, all you need to know is that there was just a slight misstep in the process that resulted in toxic gasses being emitted into the air. The gasses affected close to 100,000 civilians in the area. The disaster saw some pretty devastating effects. Instantly, over 3,000 animals were found dead. They then slaughtered 80,000 remaining farm animals so as to not contaminate future food. There were over 400 pregnant women in the area who were made aware of the risks, resulting in 26 of them deciding to get an abortion so they wouldn’t risk exposing their unborn children to genetic mutations. The woman who carried out their pregnancies ended up having no reports of any mutations to their babies.
7. Kaprun Disaster
In 2007 in Kaprun Austria, over 160 people boarded a train that they hoped to take them to the surrounding ski slopes. What happened instead was absolutely devastating. A design flaw in an unattended cabin of the train caused a fire, setting the whole train ablaze. The train had a safety feature that resulted in it unexpectedly stopping. The only downside? It stopped in the middle of a tunnel. Another safety feature kicked in making the conductor unable to open the doors of the train. Many of the passengers were trapped inside a burning train, breathing in toxic fumes that made them pass out, only to then be burned to death. Some managed to escape by breaking a window, but the tunnel made it so the smoke sucked the oxygen out, causing much more to also die from asphyxiation. The doors eventually opened and some escaped, resulting in only 12 survivors.
6. Al-Mishraq Fire
After someone intentionally set a sulfur plant in Al-Mishraq in 2003, the world saw the largest release of sulfur dioxide gas in recorded history. The plant literally burned for a little over a month, sulfur dioxide gas being released the entire time. The surrounding wildlife and rescuers on the scene were of course harmed by the toxic gasses. Fortunately, unlike many other entries on this list so far, after the fire was extinguished, it was determined that this horrific disaster would have no more long-term lasting effects on the people in the future. As Al-Mishraq is located in Iraq, many U.S. military troops suffered upper respiratory problems as a result of the release of the gasses. Over $60 million worth of sulfur and the surrounding crops were lost as well. Unfortunately, not everyone can have the best insurance policies, so a loss like this can have grave effects on the economy.
5. Holodomor – A Man-Made Famine
Famine is a nightmare that has occurred in many areas throughout the history of time. Most of the time, it results in overpopulation, low income of the people, and just an overall lack of resources. Famine is certainly not usually a man-made disaster. In the case of Holodomor, a brutal famine was caused by one man- Joseph Stalin. It began by a mass deportation of the farmers in Ukraine. As soon as you take away the farmers, you take away people’s food. Livestock was also removed or slaughtered. The people who were “deported” were actually just packed into cattle cars and shipped to Siberia, provided with no resources like food or money, and left to die. Over 4 million people died as a result, mostly due to starvation. It was genocide literally caused by taking away someone’s food. It happened over many years and wasn’t just a quick accident like others on the list. But this was most certainly a disaster caused by man.
4. Cyanide Spill In Baia Mare
If you’re going to be designing something in the future that if ruined could cause mass destruction of humans and the environment, it’s a good idea to not slack off. Everyone has a lazy day at work. It’s fine to sometimes skip rules and regulations to make your life a little easier. However, when it came to building a dam that held in toxic waters in Bozinta Mare, Romania, the workers probably shouldn’t have slacked off on construction day. Poor design mixed with unexpected weather conditions resulted in the breaking of the dam which spilled hundreds of tons of contaminated water into clean water. The company that owned the dam was used for extracting gold from different materials. The process caused the release of cyanide, which was why the water was contaminated. Because of the effects it had on the wildlife, it is the worst environmental man-made disaster Europe has ever seen.
3. The Bhopal Disaster
The Bhopal disaster, a deadly gas leak that emitted harmful toxins in the air, to this day remains the world’s worst industrial disaster. It occurred in India and resulted in over 3,500 hundred deaths confirmed, with over 15,000 potentially linked to the disaster. It was also responsible for injuring at least half a million people! The cause of the disaster is still unknown to this day. Some believe it was a mistake caused by poor maintenance and faulty design. Others believe that it was intentionally set off to cause sabotage. Unfortunately, children and people who were shorter in height got the worst of it, as they were closer to the ground where most of the gas sat. People were awoken in the middle of the night by burning sensations in their eyes and throat and the inability to flee. Luckily, some made it out with their lives, but for over 3,500, that was not the case.
2. The Chernobyl Disaster
The Chernobyl Disaster of the 1980’s remains the worst nuclear disaster our world has ever seen. One night, at the Chernobyl plant, two men were running safety tests when they decided to skip some of the procedures to make the process a little quicker. Their plan backfired and instead, the reactor malfunctioned causing a fire and steam explosion. Radioactive materials were then released into the air by smoke and steam, getting in the water and touching every surface for miles surrounding the area. The neighboring city of Pripyat had to be evacuated, the residents never being able to return. Those close to the disaster experienced symptoms of having their skin literally melt off, and if they didn’t they likely later found out they had cancer. The animals in the surrounding area were gravely affected, and the unborn children still inside their mother’s wombs suffered genetic mutations. Although it’s been over 30 years since the disaster, the area is still radioactive and has lasting effects on the rest of the world.
1. London Smog In 1952
Smog is all around us, especially if you’re in a big city. But in 1952, London had the worst and deadliest smog in the history of the United Kingdom. Because of unexpected weather conditions mixed with a high level of air pollution caused by excessive coal mines, London quickly became engulfed in thick smoke that made it hard to breathe and see. Within days, 4,000 people were dead with 100,000 showing some of the same health damages as the deceased. There wasn’t one lazy mistake by a tired worker at a dangerous plant. This was years and years of neglect and disrespect for the environment by the coal miners that led to an uncontrollable smog.
A lot of these man-made disasters on the list were triggered by weather conditions, however, had we not put dangerous power and nuclear plants with little safety security in the areas in the first place, we certainly would not have suffered these terrifying man-made disasters.