You would think that any disaster in history would make the news. After all, how could something catastrophic and devastating to another person’s life not even make the nightly news? But it happens more often than you may think. Social media alone has proven how easy it is to be distracted by one news event while another event gets entirely passed over. Believe it or not but some of the most horrific disasters in history sometimes don’t make the spotlight. Some don’t even see the light of day. The way the media works nowadays, some disasters are overshadowed by other news events. Social media and the news is oversaturated, and many events in history don’t get a lot of air time. There could be a lot of reasons why they miss the story; possibly it wasn’t a big enough disaster and something else made the news instead. It could also have been too similar to another disaster occurring at the same time and was deemed not newsworthy enough. Regardless of the reason, many disasters never make the news, and they get filed away and forgotten.
If you want to be amazed and even a little appalled, check out the list of disasters we dug up. Below are some of the most horrible and forgotten tragedies that happened in our history.
15. Trapped Sailors in Pearl Harbor
Although the attack on Pearl Harbour was never a secret, it blew up in the media as one of the worst disasters in United States history. However, some of the horrific details of the aftermath were kept out of United States history. There were many deaths during the hit on Pearl Harbor and the destruction was considerable. Over 2,400 people died that day and nineteen ships went into the harbor. One particular horror never made the news however; it’s believe it’s because of the length of time the information took to get out. The U.S.S. West Virginia was one of the ships that was damaged during the attack and when it came time to salvage the wreck, many of the crew were in shock. Many of the Marines reported hearing banging noises coming from the ship’s hull. Many believed they were ghosts but it was soon discovered that there were men stuck inside the wreckage. It was two weeks after Pearl Harbor was struck and there were doomed sailors inside with no way of getting out. It took them six months to raise the ship and discover the bodies of three men.
14. The IXTOC I Disaster
It’s not unusual for oil well drilling expeditions to be wrought with some disaster, and in 1979 the IXTOC I suffered a blowout. Sedco 135F was drilling for a Mexican petroleum company when disaster struck. While they were drilling they lost mud circulation, which means that the hydrostatic pressure designed to prevent influxes stopped working. The team thought it was best to pull out the drill and plug the well. But because they no longer had the hydrostatic pressure much of the oil and gas flowed to the surface where it immediately ignited. The Sedco 135F found itself suddenly engulfed in flames. Once things went up in flames the rig began to collapse and the structure sank. The seabed was then littered with debris such as 3000 metres of pipe and the rig’s derrick. It took over nine months to get a handle on the oil spill making it the biggest single spill in history. The water had been contaminated with 3.5 billion barrels of oil over the nine months since the disaster.
13. The Kyshtym Disaster
Nuclear disasters are something that most of us worry about and often think will never happen. You might be surprised to hear that a nuclear disaster occurred in the 1950’s and was brushed under the rug. It was considered to be the third largest nuclear disaster in history and they named it Kyshtym. In the Ural Mountains of the Soviet Union there was a plant that processed nuclear materials in order to make weapons-grade plutonium. Everyone knew that the plant was a dangerous place as they often disposed of radioactive waste by dumping it into the Techa River. In 1957, one of the plant’s cooling systems failed and it wasn’t noticed until it was too late. When a waste tank exploded, radioactive material went into the air, exposing 270,000 people to radiation. There was a nearby village where 300 of the 5000 died of radiation poisoning and the area now has five times the cancer rate of uncontaminated areas. When the disaster occurred the Soviets did not disclose the information to anyone, not even the people affected.
12. The Titanic Caused Another Ship to Sink
The sinking of the Titanic was one of the most terrible disasters in United States history with the loss of many lives. There were many reasons why the Titanic sank such as poor judgment as well as the fateful iceberg. Despite what happened the disaster didn’t need to have such a high death toll, if only the ship would have had enough lifeboats. Naturally after the Titanic sank the safety regulations of most ships improved for the sake of future passengers. A good thing right? Wrong. These safety procedures actually backfired causing the death of 800 people. In the case of the Eastland, making sure there were enough lifeboats actually was their downfall. In 1915, the Eastland took off but only after a few seconds it rolled, throwing over 2,000 people into the water, killing 844 of them. The ship was already top-heavy and the additional lifeboats was too much for the ship to take.
11. The Cemfjord Sinking
In January 2015, a Cyprus-registered cargo ship called the Cemfjord sank. When the ship capsized during violent conditions, it caused the death of eight crew members. The whole disaster could have been avoided if the Captain of the ship would have sought shelter. It was a bad call because the sea conditions were considered to be “extraordinarily violent,” reports stated that there should have been no reason why they continued on the journey. The capsizing happened so quickly that there wasn’t enough time for the crew to even make a distress call much less escape. It was believed that proper passage planning would have prevented the disaster from occurring. The gale force winds and the high tidal stream sure changed all of that. “The master’s decision to take Cemfjord into the Pentland Firth at that time was probably influenced by actual or perceived commercial pressures and his personal determination to succeed.”
10. The West Loch Disaster
Pearl Harbor seems to have had one disaster after the other, but only the primary attack is what people remember. The Japanese attack in 1941 resulted in the death of over 2000 people. But there was another disaster that is virtually unknown to the world. In 1944, there were a large amount of landing ships loaded with equipment and troops who were prepared to invade Saipan. One of the ships exploded and no one really knows why. When the ship exploded it also ignited nearby containers of ammunition and fuel. The disaster killed 163 people as well as sunk a half dozen landing ships. The only benefit to the horrific wreckage was that there was were no survivors stuck in the sinking ship. The reason why the disaster was kept quiet was because the military did not want to tip off the enemy they were about to attack.
9. Hurricane Katrina Prisoners Were Abandoned
Hurricane Katrina is ranked as one of the most terrible disasters of all time. We all know what happened there and the destruction that the hurricane caused. There are aspects of the Katrina tragedy that didn’t make the news in the same way. The aftermath of the disaster displaced thousands of people, killing over 2,000 and causing over a $100 billion in damages. There is a chapter of the Hurricane Katrina story that never came out and it involved prisoners. There was a prison called Templeman III and when the floodwaters were unleashed everyone in the prison made a run for it, except the prisoners. There were 600 abandoned prisoners left in flooded cells for four days without water or food. Not only were they submerged in water but also backed-up sewage. There were prisoners hanging signs out of their cells asking for help and it wasn’t until four days later that they were finally rescued.
8. The Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire occurred in 1871 and was one of the worst fires in American history. There isn’t a lot of information about the tragedy. There is no knowledge of how the fire started or how many people were killed in it. What is also unknown during this tragedy is that there were also four consecutive fires that occurred when the Great Chicago Fire happened. The Peshtigo fire was only one of the series of fires that turned the city into an inferno. Over 2,000 people died in flames, not just from exposure but also due to hypothermia and drowning because they dove into the river to avoid the fire. The multiple fires turned into a real horror story. It was the only the great Chicago fire that made the news that night as it took the attention of every media outlet.
7. The Disaster That Never Happened
In Manhattan there is an architectural building called the Citigroup Center which just so happens to be one of the most prominent skyscrapers in the city. Forty years ago, it was caught in the middle of a hurricane and it took 20 years before anyone ever heard about it. The skyscraper was built in 1977 and it was 59 stories tall. An engineering student named Diane Hartley expressed concerns about the structure of the building because she believed the stilts were not on the corners. The powers that be dismissed the student claiming she didn’t know what she was talking about. But upon further investigation it was discovered that the joints were only bolted not welded and would not withstand the sort of winds that occurred during a hurricane. They immediately evacuated the building and went about doing the repairs. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ellis hit before it was completed and the area was evacuated for a ten-block radius around the building. It was a good thing that Hurricane Ellis never came close to the building and they were able to fix the mistakes made by the original builder.
6. The New Orleans Curse
People love New Orleans. It’s a great place to discover a fascinating culture as well as a fun place to party. It’s a fantastic place where you can find the best gumbo you can search for and discover mysteries that involve witches or even alligators. There were disasters going on in New Orleans long before Hurricane Katrina ever made the news but we never heard about them. In 1788, a disaster called the “Great Conflagration of New Orleans” occurred in New Orleans when the city became engulfed. Within a timeframe of five hours over 800 buildings were burnt down, including a jail, army barracks, a local church as well as most of the French Quarter. Fires were becoming a New Orleans curse because what wasn’t destroyed in 1788, went down in a fire in 1794. That wasn’t the end of it either, the curse continued in 1816, 1866 and 1919.
5. Volcano Vesuvius Was a Murderer
Volcano Vesuvius has been erupting for centuries but the most notable disaster that it caused was in 1631. Throughout the years it has been showering the neighbourhoods around it with debris and ash for many years. Pompeii is one of the most notable disasters that involved a volcano and although Vesuvius wasn’t as powerful as Pompeii it still managed to kill 6,000 people. It was a three-day apocalypse that caused poisonous gases, earthquakes, tsunamis and rocks raining from the sky. It was hell on earth for the people that had to endure it before their deaths. Shockingly enough despite the massive casualties, it’s a disaster that has barely been talked about. There was evidence that some people may have escaped the disaster, as well-preserved footprints were discovered leading away from the site. Whether anyone survived or not, they probably weren’t in excellent shape when they got out.
4. Mass Shooting Aftermath
In 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, there was a mass shooting that occurred in a movie theatre. Twelve people were killed. Carli Richards was one of the survivors of the shooting and yet even though she went through a horrendous experience she wasn’t done being victimized. What happened to her afterwards was something that never hit the news. After the shooting her life began to unravel as she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She ended up selling the bullets that were inside her body in order to pay her bills. If that wasn’t bad enough conspiracy theorists started going after her. Many believed the whole shooting was faked and began to harass Carli on social media sites. No matter what happened she couldn’t seem to escape what had happened to her that fateful day. All of which was never featured on the news.
3. There Could Have Been Survivors on the Challenger
Everyone is familiar with the space shuttle disaster that occurred on January 28th 1986. The catastrophe of the Challenger took place when pressurized hot gas ruptured one of the fuel tanks. When that happened the shuttle started to disintegrate. Many people believed that all the crew died immediately but that doesn’t appear to be what happened. It’s a popular belief that the explosion completely tore the shuttle apart. It’s partly right, but that wasn’t before the crew compartment was ejected intact for the most part. There were Personal Egress Air Packs inside the compartment and when the salvage crew found the compartment they realized that three of those packs had been activated. That led people to believe that there were crew members alive when the chamber hit the ocean. Obviously when the information was discovered NASA took great effort in keeping the information under wraps. They hoped they could avoid traumatizing family members who believed their loved ones died instantly.
2. Niger Flood
The Niger flood was one disaster that seemed to go on forever. The flooding didn’t stop for over a month and during that time 11 people died and 1,693 homes were flooded. Over 30,000 people were affected by the floods, as a result of heavy rains that occurred throughout the country. The heavy rain occurred in the beginning of June and it was recorded that there was a loss of 19,536 cows. This was one case of a large flood that was not very newsworthy when it happened. Niger was also experiencing a food crisis right before flooding occurred that went largely unnoticed until the media was lobbied by NGOs. Up until that point, the flooding wasn’t of any interest to the press. The reason for this could be because floods generally aren’t considered exciting news. They are slow moving and therefore aren’t as “shocking” as other disaster could be.
1. Guatemala Earthquake
In 1976 there was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that leveled much of Guatemala City. It was largely left out of the media as the death toll was not as terrible as the Italian earthquake that happened around the same time. At the time it was said it only received one-third of the coverage as other earthquakes that occurred. Despite the damage that happened in other earthquakes, there were 23,000 people killed during the Guatemala earthquake. Not only was the death toll high but there were also millions of people that were left homeless. When the earthquake hit it only took a matter of minutes for it to total an entire city. While people were sleeping they were crushed and killed because the structures of their homes were so weak. When news finally came out, rescue efforts began as they started to find people amongst the rubble. Many people were pulled out but they suffered broken pelvises and backs.
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