Massive Mistakes: Top 10 Most Tragic Accidents in History
Accidents happen. Whether it’s just a young girl choking on her hotdog or a major unintentional nuclear explosion, accidents have a way of sneaking up on people when we least expect them. All over the planet, countless accidents happen every minute. In fact, next to diseases and other health problems, it is the second leading cause of death throughout the world. It is also the top cause of death among people under 32 years old. Some accidents happen on the individual level, like a simple tripping on your toe. Others are so huge that they claim thousands of lives and create a significant impact on the society.
This is a list of the world’s most tragic accidents in history. Bear in mind that the items here are not sorted by death toll. Ultimately, these devastating moments in history affected the world and changed how we see and deal with our lives. Note that this list does not include events that were caused by deliberate violence or natural disasters.
10. The Bihar Train Disaster
Place and Year: Bihar, India, 1981
Casualties: 268 plus 300 missing
Many people believe that the worst train tragedy in recorded history is the “Queen of the Sea” disaster in Sri Lanka, but since it was caused by a tsunami, which is a force of nature, it is intentionally excluded from the list.
9. The Tenerife Collision
Place and Year: Canary Islands, Spain, 1977
Traveling by plane is often considered the safest form of travel. Compared to road and maritime accidents, the death toll caused by plane crashes has barely reached 14,000 in the last century. Still, others argue that if we compare the ratio between air accidents and the total number of flights, the figures are still disturbing. The Tenerife collision is the worst plane accident since the plane was invented. At 17:06 (local time) of March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 airliners (Pan American World Airways Flight 1763 and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 4805) collided at Los Rodeos on the island of Tenerife, killing 583 people. KLM 4805 was taking off on the airport’s only runway when it crashed into Pan Am 1736, taxiing on the same runway. A massive explosion happened, followed by a huge ball of fire. The sound was heard throughout the island.
The two 747 planes crashing into each other
8. The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis
Place and Year: Philippine Sea, 1945
Casualties: 579 or more
The USS Indianapolis
A few weeks before the end of World War II, the USS Indianapolis, a US Navy Portland-class heavy cruiser carrying 1,196 men, was en route to Leyte in the Philippines from Guam. They never made it to the Philippines. The cruiser sank completely 12 minutes after a torpedo from a Japanese submarine hit it.
You might be thinking that this should not be included on this list because war is definitely an act of deliberate violence; however, it is not the sinking per se. Only around 300 people were trapped in it; a total of 896 men were able to leave the ship. In fact, they were able to call for rescue a number of times, but it was denied because it was thought to be sent by a Japanese submarine setting them up for a trap. The poor sailors stayed floating in the middle of the ocean for more than four days. Without any food and water, some were tempted to drink seawater, which sentenced them to dehydration. Many perished because of this.
What was more terrifying was that the water was shark-infested. For four days, they were floating on the open sea, and every three to four hours, sharks would attack and prey on them. For four days, they were waiting to be rescued while silk sharks, blue sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks in groups of 120 to 150 would have a feast. Of the 896 who survived the sinking of the ship, only 317 were alive when they were finally rescued.
Although sharks played a significant part in this incredibly traumatic tragedy, it wouldn’t have happened had they not ignored the distress calls. It still boils down to human error, making it one of the most tragic accidents in naval history.
7. The Battle of Ramree
Place and Year: Ramree, Burma, 1945
6. The Khodynka Tragedy
Place and Year: Moscow, Russia, 1896
5. The 1990 Hajj
Place and Year: Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1990
4. The Halifax Explosion
Place and Year: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1917
3. The MV Doña Paz Tragedy
Place and Year: Tablas Strait, Philippines, 1987
2. The Chernobyl Accident
Place and Year: Chernobyl, Soviet Union (now in modern Ukraine)
Casualties: over 4,000
1. The Bhopal Disaster
Place and year: Bhopal, India, 1984
Casualties: over 20,000
The top spot in this list goes to a train accident in India. This South Asian country also caps off the list with the worst accident in history. In the morning of December 3, 1984, the people of Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh woke up to an abominable day. Others did not wake up at all. A holding tank of a Union Carbide chemical plant leaked out 40 tonnes of toxic gas (methyl isocyanate) that rolled on the ground through several surrounding residential streets. The residents who breathed in the poisonous gas in their sleep died instantly. Others were able to run away. About 500,000 people were exposed to the fatal gas. Of this number, 2,500 to 5,000 died immediately after the inhalation. To this date, approximately 20,000 are believed to have died from complications caused by the leak. It is said that on average, one person dies from the effects every day. Today, over 120,000 are still suffering from cancer, blindness, serious birth defects, breathing difficulties and other health complications caused by the accident. This certainly secures India a place on the map of tragic accidents because up to this day, the Bhopal disaster is considered the world’s most tragic industrial accident in history.
Images from the Bhopal Disaster
Indeed, accidents happen. This is why utmost care is very, very important. We should all be careful with what we do because we have a responsibility to ourselves and to the people around us. Yes, people make mistakes because, hey, we’re just people. However, mistakes as tragic as the ten accidents mentioned above are, in fact, avoidable. If this article thrilled you, reading 5 ways to survive a devastating hurricane will help you in a pending disaster.
Accidents like these, tragic as they may be, were things that no one wanted. But if the carnage you want is the kind that is twisted and premeditated, then look no further than our list of Top Ten Most Horrifying and Gruesome Murders and our TopTen Torture Methods and Devices.