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10 Catastrophic Events that Occurred Due to Human Incompetence

Catastrophic Events
Liverpool fans are pulled to safety from the crush at Hillsborough Stadium. Image credit: dailymail

Many times in the past, wars or some other man-made catastrophes have caused severe bloodshed and losses. Some, like the infamous Chernobyl meltdown, were caused purely out of negligence, miscommunication, and human error. Unfortunately, Chernobyl wasn’t an isolated incident. Here are 10 catastrophic events that occurred due to human incompetence and negligence. 

1. The Halifax Explosion

The Halifax explosion of December 6, 1917, occurred when Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship with explosives, collided with Imo, a Norwegian vessel. It is the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded. The collision happened after a miscommunication between both ships and failed maneuvers killing over 1,700 people. 

The Halifax explosion
The Halifax explosion. Image credit: nova scotia public archive/NYTimes

Halifax was a wartime port city. The Imo and Mont-Blanc collision and the following events were inevitable despite the experienced captains on both ships. Imo, after having two encounters in the morning, was moving towards Bedford Basin.

The ship under the control of Pilot William Hayes entered the narrows well above the speed limit to make up for the delay. 

Francis Mackey, an experienced harbor pilot, was on Mont-Blanc. Considering the explosives, no special restrictions were made in the harbor to halt other ships until Mont-Blanc passed the channel.

Mackey noticed the Imo speeding when she was only 0.75 miles away and informed the crew about the concern of a collision. The Imo, even after multiple whistles, was not ready to yield its position. Even though Mont-Blanc tried to steer hard to port, the collision was inevitable at this point. 

About twenty minutes after the collision, the cargo hold of Mont-Blanc broke open and sparks from Imo led to fire starting due to the stored benzol. The ship was completely blown apart, and the explosion killed 1,600 people instantly.

The blast was felt as far as 207 km away. A tsunami was formed due to the explosion. People who watched the fire were blinded and 6,000 people were made homeless. (Source)

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2. Bhopal Disaster

On the night of December 2, 1984, a gas leak occurred at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, India due to negligent safety procedures. Over 30 tons of highly toxic methyl isocyanate were released into the atmosphere exposing 6,000 people and killing 15,000 over the next several years. 

Bhopal Disaster
Remains of the union carbide factory at the Bhopal gas tragedy site. Image credit: Paulose NK/Shutterstock

The Bhopal Disaster was the worst industrial accident ever caused by total incompetence and poor management. The trade unions had raised concerns about the safety of the plant since 1976. The Bhopal facility had three 68,000 liter liquid MIC storage tanks which should be filled to only 50%.

The tank was pressurized with inert nitrogen gas. The tanks should have only 30 tons of liquid MIC, but one of them had 42 tons. This led to halting production for some time, but they tried to make it functional again, which failed. 

By that time, all safety systems for the tank were malfunctioning. On December 2nd, water entered this same tank that caused the pressure to increase by five times. By midnight, workers started feeling the effects of leaked gas. The decision to address it was taken a couple of minutes later starting the events which led to 30 tons of gas leaking, and Bhopal residents being exposed to it.

Apart from affecting over 6,000 workers, plants and animals in the area were also under threat. Stillbirth and infant mortality rates increased to 300% and 200% respectively. An out-of-court settlement of $470 million was given out by Union Carbide to the government of India. Seven employees were charged with causing death by negligence. (Source)

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3. The Hillsborough Disaster

A fatal disaster unfolded during a football match at Hillsborough stadium in South Yorkshire, England on 15 April 1989. In an attempt to deal with the overcrowding outside the entrance, police commanded one of the exit gates to be opened. This resulted in overcrowding that led to 97 deaths and 766 injuries. The disaster led to increasing safety standards on English football grounds. 

The Hillsborough Disaster
Liverpool fans are pulled to safety from the crush at Hillsborough Stadium. Image credit: Dailymail.co.uk

During the semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, despite being a larger stadium, Liverpool fans were allocated a smaller end of the stadium with 10,100 tickets. Due to not marking the pens properly, this crowd ended up in the wrong pen with less seating which led to overcrowding.

Initially, authorities tried to cover up their incapability to manage the crowd by blaming the Liverpool fans as being drunk. It was labeled as a “hooligan hysteria” by the press. The catastrophe was blamed solely on violent enthusiasm for soccer.

Later on, inquests that were held from April 2014 to 2016 ruled that the spectators were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of police and ambulance service not fulfilling their duty. Six people were charged with manslaughter by negligence and perverting the course of justice. It was labeled as the worst sporting event to ever occur. (Source)

4. The Battle of the Crater

The Battle of Crater occurred as part of the American Civil War in 1864 which happened in Petersburg, VA. The plan was to explode a mine to weaken the Confederate forces. The situation deteriorated rapidly as the explosion left a crater and confused soldiers. Severe casualties of Black soldiers commanded by Brigadier General Edward Ferrero were reported. 

The Battle of the Crater
The Battle of the Crater. Image credit: Alfred Waud /Wikimedia

Union casualties were 3,798 and Confederates had 1,491. Union losses were from Ferrero’s division. Even though the crater was the idea of the Union, because of the lack of thorough planning, the events that followed killed 278 soldiers immediately in the explosion.

The Union did not attack for 15 minutes after the explosion due to last-minute plan changes made by their drunken general. 

The whole event resulted in Union soldiers running in and out of their trenches to handle the counterattack. The whole Union planned attack was a monumental failure even though the battle turned out to be won by them. (Source)

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5. The Destruction of the Parthenon

In 1656, the Ottoman Turks used Parthenon to store gunpowder and ammunition during the Seige of Acropolis. During the attack by Venetians, the Ottomans thought that the building would be safe assuming that the Venetians would never attack such a historically important building. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Everyone in the Parthenon was killed.

The Destruction of the Parthenon
Remains of the Parthenon. Image credit: Shutterstock

The Great Turkish war was the Ottoman empire clashing with European powers to get control over the Aegean Sea. This led to them going to war against the Venetians. The Venetian Army led by Captain-General Francesco Morosini began shelling the Acropolis in September 1687.  

The Ottomans, for some reason, were under the impression that the Venetians wouldn’t attack such a historic site and decided to retreat there where they were storing gunpowder and munitions. After Morosini managed to strike the powder magazine, the city of Athens burned for two days straight. (Source)

Also read: 10 of the Craziest Events Caught Live on Tv

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