The Top 20 Biggest Man-Made Disasters

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Disaster is a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life. Tsunamis, typhoons, eruptions and climate change are some of the natural disasters.

However, those are nothing compared to man-made disasters.

We blame the natural disaster for the death and loss but our own incompetence and stupidity show us that we’re nothing but more than a danger.

Here are the top 20 biggest man-made disasters for you that kept the bad impact on human civilization.

Here Are 20 Biggest Man-made Disasters In World History

1. The Baia Mare Water Cyanide Contamination

The Baia Mare Water Cyanide Contamination

The gold mining company Aural, a joint venture of the Australian company Esmeralda Exploration and the Romanian Government used the gold cyanidation process to extract gold.

The company shipped its waste product to a dam near Bozinta Mare. On 30 January 2000, a dam burst and a total of 100 thousand cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water spilled over some farmland and then into the Somes River.

From there it traveled across many European rivers and reached the Danube. A large quantity of fish died by the biggest man-made disasters, poisoned water, and the total ecosystem was destroyed.

Cyanide contamination is the second-largest pollution in Europe after the Chernobyl event.

2. The Bhopal Gas Leak

The Bhopal Gas Leak Biggest Man-Made Disasters

After midnight on December 3, 1984, a pesticide plant of Bhopal named Union Carbide Ltd. released 30 metric tons of poisonous gas into the atmosphere that killed thousands of people.

This incident is known as the Bhopal gas tragedy. The chemical company Union Carbide Ltd. was in extremely poor condition.

To avoid a huge chemical explosion it activated a safety release system and emptied a storage tank containing methyl isocyanate in the air. 

The official record says that 3,787 people were killed in that tragedy but the unofficial record states the number 8000 or more.

3. The Centralia Fire

The Centralia Fire

A coal seam fire, The Centralia mine fire has been burning since 1962 underneath the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania.

The fire started from deliberate burning of trash in an abandoned coal mine. As they did not extinguish the fire completely, it spread throughout the mine fueled by the leftover coal.

Now it is burning over an 8 (13 km) mile stretch. At its current rate, it can continue to burn over 250 years.

Now, most of the town is completely abandoned, with few residents, who don’t want to leave their homes.

4. The Death Of Aral Sea

The Death Of Aral Sea

Located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square km.

It is considered as a sacrificial lamb to the former Soviet Union’s Agricultural plan.

It had declined to 10% of its original size. The USSR official wanted to use the lake for irrigation and decided to divert the route of the two rivers which fed into the lake.

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The channels were so poorly built that in some places up to 75% of water was lost to the land. As a result, the lake began to evaporate.

The shrinking of the lake is one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters. The lake region is also heavily polluted, with consequential public health problems.

5. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the sea. As a result, petrol began to blow out directly into the water through the drill hole.

This industrial disaster is considered to be the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

After several failed efforts to stop the flowing,  they were able to sell it on 19 September 2010. Till then approximately 780,000 cubic meters of oil were discharged in the Gulf of Mexico.

Marine species became threatened for the spilled oil. In the following years, scientists began to collect the reports of these biggest man-made disasters.

The oil is now soaked up in the food and water resources. It is the biggest health crisis in the history of the USA.

6. The Door To Hell

The Door To Hell

Locally known as the door to hell The Darvaza gas crater is a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan. In 1971 Soviet scientists began to drill and excavate the field.

During their work. the ground under the drilling rig collapsed and a huge crater was formed. the diameter of the crater is 69 meter and the depth is 30 meters. 

Methane gas started to blow out right into the atmosphere. To get rid of further pollution, the geologist set it on fire and since then it has been burning.

7. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred on March 24, 1989, when a tanker named Exxon Valdez struck Prince William Sound’s, Bligh Reef.

The tanker spilled about 119.000 cubic meters of crude oil which caused one of the world’s biggest contamination disasters of all time.

The spilled oil-covered eventually 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals, and seabirds.

8. The Guiyu E-Waste Dump In China

The Guiyu E-Waste Dump In China

Guiyu in Guangdong, China, is the largest electronic waste site in the world.

Here a total of 52 square kilometers of land is filled with iPhones, Galaxy S4s and other famous electronic devices.

The process of disposal and reprocessing are outdated. Here the piles of electronics equipment are burnt to retrieve precious metals that pollute the area.

All of the surrounding areas are exposed to lead poisoning. The blood sample of Guiyu’s children contains 54% higher lead levels than those of the nearby town Canadian.

The earth of Guiyu contains 371 times more lead and 115 times more copper than the soil sample taken 30 kilometers away.

9. The Gulf War Spill

The Gulf War Spill

During the war against the USA, as a brilliant military strategy, Iraq spilled 720 thousand cubic meters oil into the Persian Gulf to make it hard for the US forces to land.

But this technique changed the adjacent wildlife for good. The oil amount was vast and Iraq did not try to clean up it.

Now the oil is settled in the sediment layer of the waterbed and as a result, all marine wildlife suffered a big deal of damage, even some rare species vanished.

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10. The Jilin Chemical Explosion

The Jilin Chemical Explosion

On 13 November 2005, a petrochemical plant in Jilin, China exploded several times due to poor operating leaving six dead, dozens injured and thousands to be evacuated.

Due to the blast 100 tons of pollutants mainly benzene and nitro-benzene were released into the environment.

The river Songhua and Amur were covered with toxic elements. The benzene level rose to 108 times the safety levels.

Exposure to it can cause leukemia and other immune system impairments. Later the Jilin and Heilongjiang Province water supplies were shut off due to the contamination which affected Ten million people.

11. The Libby Montana Asbestos Contamination

The Libby Montana Asbestos Contamination

A small town Libby Montana is the site of America’s one of the biggest man-made disasters environmentally.

Toxic asbestos dust from the vermiculite mines caused the death of hundreds of residents.

At that time (starting 1919) it was little known about the effects of asbestos on human respiration system, companies used to pull vermiculite out of mines in Libby.

Asbestos was one of the by-products of the mines and plant operations. As a result, it continuously came out of the chimneys and covered the whole area until 1990.

In the meantime, asbestos has soaked into the existence of the residents.

12. The Love Canal Toxic Landfill

The Love Canal Toxic Landfill

The Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls. It is infamous for its 70-acre landfill that became the epicenter of the became the epicenter of the biggest man-made disaster in history.

Before being bought by the Hooker Chemical Company, Love Canal served as a residential area.

After buying, the chemical company used the place to dump their toxic waste here. However, the economic boom causes a drastic expansion of the area and soon Niagara Falls needs more land to build a school.

At first Hooker, Chemical refused to sell their land due to health precaution and later they were persuaded to sell their land and the neighborhood was built just on top of the buried toxic trash.

The pollution affected the residents almost immediately and the Love Canal attracted national attention for the public health problem.

After this event, many families were displaced with long-standing health issues like high count of white blood cells and leukemia.

13. The Minamata Disease

The Minamata Disease

The Minamata disease was first noticed in the mid-twentieth century in Minamata Bay, Japan.

It’s a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. The nearby chemical factory owned by Chisso Corporation had dumped its mercury-contaminated wastewater into the bay from 1932 to 1968.

This highly toxic chemical bio-accumulated with shellfish and fish and when they were eaten, local people even cat, dog, and the pig got infected with serious mercury poisoning.

14. The North Pacific Garbage Patch

The North Pacific Garbage Patch Biggest Man-Made Disasters

A gyre is a vortex of trapped water which revolves around a center point. It has no access to nearby currents so nothing can get out of here.

According to scientists’ 1988 prediction, the garbage thrown off into the ocean will gather in these gyres and build a huge patch of floating garbage.

Now we see how true their prediction was. Now about 8.1% of the entire surface of the Pacific ocean is covered with toxic sludge, petrol,  plastic, and other thrown away materials.

15. The Palomares Incident

The Palomares Incident Biggest Man-Made Disasters

The Palomares incident occurred on 17th January 1966. An American B-52 bomber loaded with 4 hydrogen bombs collided with a KC-135 tanker during mid-air refueling.

All the four crew members of KC-135 and three of the seven crew members of B-52G died. The nuclear bombs were released in the crash.

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Three of them landed over the small fishing village of Palomares, Spain.

Two of them discharged explosives inside them and contaminated about 2 square kilometer areas by plutonium.

The fourth one was recovered intact from the Mediterranean Sea.

16. The Sidoarjo mud volcano

The Sidoarjo mud volcano

Generally, mud volcanoes are the result of seismic activities. However, the Sidoarjo mud volcano was created due to the imprudent act of an Indonesian drill company named PT Lapindo Brantas.

The company was drilling in an unstable area near the ring of fire. the drilling reactivated previous inactive faults. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake gave the final touch.

After a few days mud began to spew out through the drilling hole and continue to this day with the expectancy to continue for the next 25 to 30 years.

17. The Tennessee Coal Ash Spill

The Tennesse Coal Ash Spill

The Tennessee Coal ash spill occurred on December 22, 2008. Like any other company, The Kingstone Fossil Fuel Power Plant produced fly coal ash as a by-product of coal combustion.

Generally, the ash is mixed with the water and stored in dredge cells. generally, this biggest man-made disaster took place due to poor management, Kingstone company stored the mixture on the slope of a hill.

Following a powerful rainstorm, the slurry gave weight and a massive landslide of ash and mud happened.

Three hundred acres of land were submerged under the filth and an estimated 675 million dollars of damage was caused to the residential.

18. Castle Bravo

Castle Bravo Biggest Man-Made Disasters

Castle Bravo was the first of high yield thermonuclear weapon tests by the United States at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.

It was the biggest nuclear bomb ever discharged by America. The blast had a force of 15 megatons, a thousand times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The designer made a little miscalculation and as a result, it ended up three times stronger than the anticipation.

On 1 March 1954, the explosion spread fallout over 20,000 people who inhabited nearby islands.

After the explosion, they spent three days there and then the American Government rescued them.

Three years later they were told that they can’t return to their land because of contamination.

19. Chernobyl


A nuclear power plant Chernobyl near Pripyat, Ukraine exploded in 1986 due to the poor management system. As a result, one of the plant’s nuclear reactors cracked open and a huge amount of radioactive materials leaked into the atmosphere.

Wind spread the radioactive cloud all over Russia and Europe. Though the reactor was sealed as soon as possible, the plants nearby area including town Pripyat was highly contaminated.

All the inhabitants were rescued immediately. 31 people died in this incident and the city Pripyat is now dead.

20. London’s Great Smog

London’s Great Smog

The winter of 52 was one of the coldest in London’s history. At that time, the coal-powered heater was used for heating purposes.

More coal was used in that year. An anticyclone that was just over London then collected the smoke and burned pollutants and formed a thick layer of smog all over the city.

This condition lasted for four days and due to the weather condition, nobody noticed it.  The highly toxic smog hit the lungs of almost every inhabitant.

At the last of the year from analyzed medical reports, it was known that four thousand people died an immature death and a hundred thousand suffered respiratory illness due to the smog.

I write about new technologies, often hardware, equipment, and 3D technology, but sometimes mobile and in the cloud. I like to help owners and executives of small and medium enterprises to discover how to use these tools to grow their businesses. In the past, I have penciled the Wall Street Journal, Make, Sports Afield, Pittsburgh Business Times and many others.

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