The contribution of engineering in the progress of human society is undeniable. Numerous man-made innovations and inventions have helped us to create a better life. Along with incredible innovations, we have also seen some memorable engineering disasters across the world. To reduce costs of construction and fabrication, people often take shortcuts which results in terrible engineering disasters. Design failure, under or overestimations, insufficient knowledge and much more can result in a catastrophic disaster. Some historical examples are the Hindenburg Disaster which killed around 36 people. The Pennsylvanian Johnstown Flood caused the deaths of 2209 people. The Banqiao Dam Failure in China and the failure of St. Francis Dam in the U.S took the lives of thousands of people. Here are 10 more Terrible Engineering Disasters Of All Time that could’ve been avoided with a little more care.
1.The Nuclear Plant Explosion in Chernobyl:
The Chernobyl explosion occurred in in 1986 but the effects are still visible. On 26th April the world’s most catastrophic nuclear accident took the lives of 64 people and more than 30,000 people suffered from premature deaths due to cancer. The technicians at the reactor Unit-4 conducted a poorly planned experiment which caused a series of explosions and radioactive fallout. Flawed design, inexperienced operators and negligence what caused this terrible disaster. The site has become a tourists attraction now.
2. The Disaster of The Space Shuttle Challenger:
On January 28, 1986, 7 astronauts lost their lives when the Space Shuttle Challenger took place. After 73 seconds of taking flight, the shuttle broke apart because its external fuel had collapsed releasing the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants. The chemicals led to the spark breaking the tank. The accident caused the shuttle orbiter to break off of other components and the deaths of all the onboard astronauts. This was shown entirely on television live. The disaster of Space Shuttle Columbia which happened on 1st February 2003 also killed all the 7 astronauts. The whole disaster was caused because a small piece of the foam insulation had broken from the shuttle during its launch.
3. The Collapse of The Quebec Bridge:
The Quebec Bridge in Canada collapsed not once but twice. The first time it collapsed in 1907 killing 55 people. There were workers at that time working on the Cantilever arm of the bridge. It was the largest Cantilever bridge in the world. The second time in 1916, the bridge collapsed again and killed 13 workers. The bridge took the lives to 89 workers. Another famous bridge that collapsed was the Tacoma Bridge in Washington in 1940. The heavy wind and the towers that failed to protect the bridge from the heavy wind said to have been the cause of this disaster. Though no human died in the disaster there was a dog who lost his life. The disaster also led to a loss of $6.4 million.
4. The Walkway Collapse in The Hyatt Regency Hotel:
On 17th July 1981 in Kansas City in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel two vertical walkways collapsed and took the lives of 114 people. The designs of both the walkways were seriously flawed. After investigation, the engineers were convicted of misconduct and gross negligence and their license were cancelled.
5. The Titanic Disaster:
Probably the most well-known disaster on this list and in the world. The Titanic took the lives of more than 1,514 people. The ship took off from Southampton and was supposed to reach New York in April of 1912. But after colliding with an iceberg the ship couldn’t survive and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean. Titanic had lost of flaws from rivets made of low-quality iron to designing flaws like all the sixteen compartments that were watertight were connected near the ceiling and were not individually sealed. The ship was carrying 2,200 passengers while it only had 20 lifeboats. Later 705 survivors were rescued. Low temperature, high impact loading, and high sulfur content in the hull steel all contributed in the disaster of the Titanic.
6. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill:
A poorly planned well and a faulty Blow-Out Preventer caused one of the most tragic engineering disasters of all time. This disaster happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, USA. There were reports of 11 deaths and 17 injuries, but the oil spill caused deaths of huge numbers of flora and fauna underwater. It caused the deaths of many endangered species. Approximately, 130 million tons of oil was spilt into the ocean. The disaster started on 20th April 2010 and the Deepwater Horizon sank on 22nd April. Pressurized methane gas expanded from the well into the drilling riser. Then the gas caught fire and exploded, spilling the oil and killing and harming over 102,000 birds, 6,165 sea-turtles, 25,900 sea mammals, and a billion of newborn species. The explosion also caused damages worth $61.60 billion.
7. The Bhopal Disaster:
On 3rd December 1984, in Bhopal, Indian, one of the most tragic disasters of all time took place. Post-midnight, there was a leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the pesticide industry Union Carbide India Limited in Madhya Pradesh. The highly toxic gas killed thousands of people within just a matter of a few hours. It was reported that the accident cost the UCIL owners $520 million. The tanks leaked over 40 tonnes of toxic gases into the air of the city and affected around 558,000 people. Out of those 3,900 became permanently disabled. Upon inspection, it was revealed that there was a large volume of water in the MIC gas tank which caused a toxic chemical reaction that forced open the pressure release valve allowing the gas to leak. People even born after 30 years of the accident still suffers from various diseases. There was a disaster on 20th October 1944, in Cleveland, Ohio which took the lives of 130 people. It was also a gas explosion consisting of Liquified Natural Gas, which could have been avoided with a little care.
8. The Rana Plaza Collapse:
In 2013, Dhaka, Bangladesh, a five-story commercial building named Rana Plaza collapsed. The disaster took the lives of 1,134 people and injured more than 2,500 people. The building included a bank, clothing factories, several apartments, and numerous shops. Most of the victims were women and young children. The building had many flaws, it was built on a filled-in pond, it had more three floors than the original permit, the construction material was cheap and it was highly neglected.
9. The Steamboat Explosion In The SS Sultana:
In 1865 the steamboat SS Sultana was carrying almost 2300 passengers. The passengers included the crew, the civilians, and the prisoners of war. When 3 out of the 4 boilers of Sultana exploded, the steamboat sunk and killed 1500-1800 passengers. It was almost 7 miles from Memphis. Sultana was not only overloaded but it was also reported that the 4 boilers started leaking several days before the disaster but it was neglected.
10. The Boeing 737 Max Crashes:
Plane crashes are always devastating because it leaves little to no room for the passengers to survive. The crash of Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, over the Java Sea and the crash of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, had something in common, the new Boeing 737 Max Jet. The Lion Air Flight 610 took the lives of 181 passengers and eight crew members while the Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 claimed the lives of 149 passengers and eight crew members. It was Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems (MCAS) that caused the malfunction. Boeing received a lot of criticism for giving responsibilities to pilots who were not trained well.