10 Biggest Man-Made Disasters In The World

For centuries, mankind has worked to advance the quality of life. Today, we have well built communities and developed countries because of these efforts. These accomplishments however, did not come easily.

Some of these feats were accomplished with nature becoming the victim. Man considers himself as the alpha being on this planet but sometimes his incompetence and stupidity leads to a path of destruction. While natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis have caused severe destruction, so has mankind; with our unnatural experiments and wars. Here, we have gathered a list of 10 man-made disasters that were the most destructive in history.

1. The Chernobyl Nuclear Explosion

Being one out of two accidents classified as level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, Chernobyl is known as the worst nuclear power plant incident in history. Cancers, deformities and other long term illnesses were the scars of not only human inhabitants but of animals as well.

2. The Great Smog of ’52

Thousands died and a hundred thousand fell ill because of a blanket of smog that covered London for 5 days in 1952. Cold weather, combined with windless conditions collected airborne pollutants from the use of coal to form a thick layer of smog over the city. Recent research showed that 12,000 premature deaths can be attributed to this smog.

3. The Door To Hell

The Door To Hell is a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan, which to this day forth still continues to burn, after it was set on fire in 1971. Soviet scientists began to drill and excavate the resource in the same year. However, during their work the ground under the drilling rig gave weight and collapsed. A giant crater formed and started to blow out methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, right into the atmosphere. Out of fear of further pollution, the workers did the next best thing — lit it on fire. When the gas is burned, almost all environmental hazards are removed.

4. The Bhopal Disaster

Known as the world’s worst industrial disaster, more than half a million people were exposed to methyl isocyanate gas and other toxic chemicals in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India on the night of December 2-3, 1984. The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant’s leak of the poisonous gas claimed 2,259 casualties.

5. The Shrinking of the Aral Sea

Dubbed as “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters”, 10% of Aral sea’s 68,000 square kilometers has disappeared due to the diversion of rivers for irrigation. That percentage that was once a part of the fourth largest inland body of water is now a plain of highly saline soil with depleting marine life.

6. Fukushima Nuclear Accident

On March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Fukushima, claiming more than 18,000 lives and triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The earthquake caused the nuclear power plant cooling system to lose power and the emergency diesel generators were flooded by the tsunami. Just a day after the tsunami ravaged the city and displaced more than 300,000, the Fukushima power plant failed. When the cooling system shut down, it resulted in a nuclear meltdown of three of the plant's nuclear reactors.

The series of explosions released radioactive materials into the air and the water. By July, most of the food and water sources had been contaminated; leaving people with limited access to them. Despite all this, the Japanese government worked at a fast pace to contain the leakage and limit people from exposure. In 2018, Japan acknowledged that a man in his 50's, who worked at the nuclear plant twice during the meltdown had died from radiation exposure.

7. Baia Mare Cyanide Spill

After the Chernobyl incident in Russia, this cyanide spill in Baia Mare, Romania is aptly called the worst environmental disaster in Europe.

On January 30, 2000, 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water leaked out from a dam, spewing out 100 tonnes of cyanide. An incredible amount of fish and aquatic plants were killed and up to 100 people were hospitalized after eating contaminated fish.

8. E-waste in Guiyu, China

Guiyu, China is the location of what may be the largest electronic waste (e-waste) site on earth. As a result 88% of the children in the area suffer from lead poisoning and there is more than the average rate of miscarriages. Consequently, the province is sadly referred to as the “electronic graveyard”.

9. The Al-Mishraq Fire

Al-Mishraq is a state run sulfur plant near Mosul, Iraq which in June 2003 was the site of the largest human-made release of sulfur dioxide ever recorded. A fire thought to have been deliberately started burned for almost a month spewing 21,000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide a day into the atmosphere.

10. Deep water horizon (BP) oil spill

The deep water horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil Spill) in the Gulf of Mexico is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The oil spill was a direct result of the explosion and sinking of the deepwater horizon oil rig which claimed 11 lives. Total oil wasted is estimated at 4.9 million barrels.