While engineers accomplish many wonders and amazing tasks, the fact remains that a slight miscalculation can result in a huge disaster. What follows is the 10 worst disasters’ list in engineering. The lesson to learn is to do your work with due diligence and make sure that no stones are unturned when human lives are at stake.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a dual suspension bridge that sports main spans of 850 meters. The first bridge that became famous was called Galloping Gertie and was opened on 1st July, 1940. After 4 months it collapsed due to a structural breakdown induced by dramatic winds. The collapse was filmed on color motion picture film. The only fatality was a black Cocker Spaniel.
This catastrophic event took place on 20th October, 1944 resulting in the death of 130 persons while damaging one square mile area in Cleveland, Ohio. The above ground storage tank that had liquefied natural gas started releasing a vapor owing to the poor structuring of tank. This gas mixture further mixed with air and sewer gas eventually getting ignited. The explosion had the manhole covers shooting upwards into sky while fire was erupted from depths of sewer lines. It was considered to be contained after this, however, a second explosion that took place about 30 minutes after leveled the tank farm.
This incident was the most lethal structural collapse in US history at the time of its occurrence. The disaster took place on 17th July, 1981 in Kansas City, Missouri and resulted in deaths of 114 persons while more than 200 were injured. The gathering was for a dance contest and the structure was built with construction issues that led to improper weight imparting and the result was this disaster. The change in design during construction issue led to the structure’s particular beam being unable to hold its own weight and when hundreds of people entered, it caved in.
Given a level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale and considered the worst nuclear disaster so far, this event occurred due to an unsound reactor located at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The disaster was followed by relocation of 336,000 persons from affected areas.
St. Francis Dam had a failure after hours of being visited by William Mulholland on 12th March, 1928 whose career ended after his dam failed. The failure resulted in 12.5 billion US gallons worth water flooding in the Santa Clarita Valley located north of Los Angeles. A total of 450 lives were lost during this disaster.
The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage as soon as it made contact with the first wind, which was a bit stronger than normal breeze. It was built with insufficient ballast and sunk in 32 meters of water only 120 meters away from the shore after setting sail. The incident took place on 10th August, 1628. The death toll was 35-50 sailors and crew. The organized inquire by Privy Council didn’t see through till the end and no sentences were carried out.
This incident resulted in the death of 21 persons and 150 were injured. The disaster struck when a big molasses tank that was 15 meters tall and had a diameter of 27 meters collapsed at 529 Commercial Street and resulted in the leak of 8,700,000 liters. The collapse had a molasses’ wave that was measured at 8-15ft in height and moved at a speed of 56 km/hr.
Skylab was launched into the orbit back in 1973 on 14th May. The station, weighing 75 Metric tons, incurred extreme damage during launch and never fully recovered. The ultimate cost of the damages reached $3.6 billion and the station has never fully managed to recover to the initial condition.
The R101 was slated for Karachi via refueling stop in Egypt. While flying over France, winds broke the exterior covering that exposed and ruptured the first gas bag. The R101 crashed into the hillside located close to Beauvais, north of Paris at 20 km/hr. The impact resulted in the ignition of hydrogen that was leaking and soon the fire swept all over the airship. A total of 48 persons died.
25th May, 1979 saw the crash of American Airlines Flight 191. It lost number one wing engine once it took off from the O’Hare International Airport located in Chicago. The engine separation caused rupturing of hydraulic lines and the left wing stalled resulting in the rolling of plane to the left and eventually crashing. This resulted in death of 271 persons on board and two on ground.