Maritime disaster – Worse than Titanic

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December 20, 1987, Worst Peacetime Sea Disaster


A Brief History

On December 20, 1987, the passenger ferry Dona Paz sank with twice as many drowned as theTitanic!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find around 1500 souls lost on the Titanic, and perhaps 4300 lost on the Dona Paz!

Originally built and operated in Japan (1963), the Dona Paz was designed for only 608 passengers, although when operated in the Philippines after being sold in 1975 it was given a capacity of about 1500.

On the fateful day of December 12, 1987, the ferry carried far more than the claimed roughly 1600 people, probably about 4000 or more.  About 10:30 p.m. local time en route between Tacloban and Manila the Dona Paz collided with a tanker ship, the MT Vector.  Pandemonium reigned supreme as the gasoline carried by the tanker burst into flames and spread to the hapless ferry.  The Dona Pazsuffered a great explosion and sank about 2 hours after the collision, with the Vector sinking within 2 hours later.

With no lifeboats or life-jackets present, and no direction from the crew, the passengers had no choice but to jump overboard into the flaming seas.  Either the Dona Paz did not have a radio or for some reason did not send a distress signal.  One way or another, authorities did not hear of the tragedy until about 8 hours later, and took another 8 hours to organize search and rescue operations!

Out of the 4000+ aboard the ferry and the 13 man crew of the tanker, only 2 of the tanker’s crew were rescued and only 24 passengers survived from the ferry.  Despite the conflicting numbers of passengers claimed, this tragedy is generally accepted as the worst peacetime maritime disaster of all time (by authorities such as Time magazine and The World Almanac).

Investigation of the incident revealed shoddy seamanship on the part of both vessels, with only one apprentice crew member on the bridge of Dona Paz and the Vector operating without a lookout, qualified captain, or even a license! Victims were paid a pittance of less than $500 as a settlement, with the only bright side being that even those passenger/victims not on the manifest still got paid.

Maritime disaster

– Worse than Titanic

The Bhopal Disaster – Bad Job

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The Bhopal Disaster: The Worst Industrial Accident of All Time


A Brief History

On December 3, 1984, the terrible tragedy at Bhopal, India took place when a huge quantity of methyl isocyanate (MIC) escaped and exposed 500,000 people to this poison and other chemicals, over 2200 of which died immediately and perhaps 16,000 more deaths over the ensuing weeks.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper we find the table set for disaster at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant built in 1969 to produce the pesticide “Sevin” and later the pesticide MIC when numerous leaks and other safety violations took place leading up to the disaster. Ignoring normal safety practices and failing to heed local authorities warnings, the plant continued to produce more MIC than needed causing the need to store massive quantities of the highly toxic chemical.  The safety systems in place were not maintained, either, helping to ensure the maximum lethality when a disaster occurred.  Amazingly, considering the highly toxic nature of the products at this plant, safety and maintenance manuals were in English when most of the workers did not read the language.  Training was also deficient and the general attitude about safety was stunningly lax.

Water invading a huge storage tank of MIC triggered an exothermic reaction with the chemical and corroded metal fixtures, resulting in the massive release of the toxic gas cloud.  Happening over night, most victims were unaware of the leak as they were sleeping and nobody sounded an alarm.  How the water entered the storage tank is not clearly known and is debated, just as whether or not cyanide gas was one of the chemicals released with the MIC and others.  Regardless, over a half million casualties and thousands of deaths later, this disaster dwarfs any other industrial accident.

Along with strong anti-American feelings (UCIL was a subsidiary of the American company Union Carbide Corporation) criminal and civil proceedings also resulted and numerous studies of the incident have been made.  The criminal investigation resulted in only 8 former UCIL employees being convicted, with penalties of 2 years in jail and $2000 fine apiece, and this did not happen until 2010!  One of them died prior to sentencing.  Other Union Carbide officials were charged with manslaughter by the Indian government, but refused to return to India to face the charges.  The civil cases still drag on despite an agreement for UCC to provide $470 million , as does debate over the long term damage to persons and the vast area affected by the spill.

This massive disaster is a record we hope is never broken.  Of course, if Union Carbide officials are correct, the water entering the storage facility that triggered the event could not have accumulated by accident, meaning this incident was actually a terrorist event purposely caused by one or more disgruntled employees.  As with much of this chaotic debacle, no one in authority can really state with any certainty why it happened.

Bad Jobs

Natural Disasters — Bad Things Go Happen

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Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters


A natural disaster is something that no one in their lifetime wants to experience. These disasters are extremely crushing, to those who are both affected directly, and even indirectly. You have probably seen coverage in the newspapers and on the television, showing media reports of these devastating times. One I remember like it was yesterday is the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

The definition of a natural disaster is a disaster that is caused by a natural threat, such as an earthquake, landslide, or a tornado. Because we as humans are extremely vulnerable to what Mother Nature throws our way, we don’t have the means of always being able to predict and plan for the next natural disaster. Here are the Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters, dating from centuries up until most recently.

10. Banqiao Dam Failure, 1975


The Banqiao Dam was built in order to hold back around 12 inches of rainfall each day. However, in August 1975, those who created the dam would realize it wasn’t enough. During this time a storm came, caused by a collision between a cold front and Super Typhoon Nina, that brought heavy rains. The rain was so heavy that 7.46 inches fell every hour. This added up to about 41.7 inches of rain each day. The dam failed because of sedimentation blockage and 15.738 billion tons of water was released within the next few days. Waves up to 23 feet high rushed down streets at 31mph and destroyed everything. After the water settled down, over 231,000 people were dead.

9. Haiyuan Earthquake, 1920

Standing as the 4th deadliest earthquake of all time, the Haiyuan earthquake was catastrophic. Seven provinces were affected by the disaster. On December 16, 1920, a 7.8 earthquake hit Ningxia, China. For three years after the earthquake, aftershocks continued. In just Haiyuan County, more than 73,000 people were killed.  The earthquake also caused landslides and large ground cracks, especially close to the epicenter of the earthquake. The earthquake was so strong that some rivers became dammed and others changed courses. Most of the homes and buildings were destroyed. Over 200,000 people were killed.

8. Tangshan Earthquake, 1976


The Tangshan earthquake happened on July 28, 1976. It is said to be the 20th century’s largest earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Tangshan, which is located in Hebei, China. The city was industrial and had about one million people living in it. The disaster struck early in the morning and lasted 10 seconds or so. It has been said that the earthquake was 7.8-8.2 magnitude. Not only did the earthquake kill, but the 7.8 magnitude aftershock increased the number of deaths. The earthquake was said to first have killed 655,000 people, but the number has been decreased to about 255,000 people.

7. Antakya (Antioch) Earthquake, 565 A.D.

The Antakya earthquake occurred in 565 A.D. There are not many details available today, but it was said to have hit on May 20. It left damage ranging between 1-24 million dollars. The earthquake caused about 250,000 deaths.

6. Indian Ocean Earthquake/Tsunami, 2004

 On December 26, 2004, a day after Christmas, and undersea earthquake struck, with its epicenter off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. Through the earthquake hit many different places, it was most felt in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand. This is the second largest earthquake recorded, reaching a magnitude of 9.1-9.3. It lasted between 8-10 minutes, and was so severe that the entire planet vibrated and other earthquakes were caused, such as those in Alaska. The earthquake and tsunami caused over 225,000 deaths.

5. India Cyclone, 1839

In 1839, an extremely large cyclone hit Coringa, India. It happened on November 25 when a 40-foot storm surge caused by the cyclone completely ruined a city. It wiped out everything that it came into contact to. Sadly, the city was never really rebuilt, 20,000 vessels that were docked in the city were destroyed. Over 300,000 people were dead once the storm surge went down.

4. Bhola Cyclone, 1970

After the Bhola Cyclone devastated croplands, cleanup efforts included attempting to salvage rice and other grains in order to avoid starvation.

After the Bhola Cyclone devastated croplands, cleanup efforts included attempting to salvage rice and other grains in order to avoid starvation.

The Bhola Cyclone hit East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh on November 12, 1970. It stands as the deadliest cyclone to ever have been recorded. Strong winds hit the region at 115mph and the storm was said to have reached the strength of a Category 3 hurricane. However, it wasn’t the winds that killed. Most of those who lost their lives during this natural disaster were killed because of the storm surge. It is said that up to 500,000 people were killed because of the heavy rain and flooding in many areas.

3. Shaanxi Earthquake, 1556

The Shaanxi earthquake stands as the deadliest earthquake ever. On February 14, 1556, an earthquake hit China. Its epicenter was in the Wei River Valley, and as many as 97 counties in places such as Henan, Shaanxi, Hebei, Anhui, and others were affected. In Huaxian, every building that stood was ruined and more than half of the people that lived there were killed. Some statistics show that some counties have up to 60% of their population killed. In all, more than 830,000 people died from the Shaanxi earthquake. Studies have shown that the earthquake’s magnitude was somewhere around 8. Because it was so strong, aftershocks were felt for nearly half a year later.

2. Yellow River Flood, 1887


The Yellow River, which is located in China, is extremely prone to flooding. In 1887, the Yellow River flooded and completely devastated about 50,000 square miles of land. The flood is said to have killed between 900,000-2,000,000 people. Farmers that lived and planted near the river had built small dikes that were, at one point, able to hold back water if it rained. However, the heavy rain that came much too quickly overpowered the dikes and the river flooded.

1. Central China Floods, 1931

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Occurring in 1931, the Central China Floods is said to be the deadliest natural disaster that has ever been recorded. It has since been called the greatest disaster to visit China. After a long drought, China was hit by seven cyclones, which brought inches and inches of rain. During the Central China Flood, three different rivers flooded-over, and up to 4 million people were killed because of the floods. Though there were dams built to hold back water in the Yangzte, Yellow, and Huai rivers, they were either poorly built or much too small.

Natural Disasters

— Bad Things Go Happen