12 of the Deadliest Construction Projects in History

Since the last century, thousands of people have sacrificed their lives by involving themselves in astounding construction works. It is now very common that serious accidents and deaths occur during construction. Most of the countries have strict regulation regarding safety rules. We all learn from our previous mistakes, the only good thing about these accidents is, some of them gave rise to new safety standards. The following projects include all reasons of deaths such as disease due to working condition, poor safety systems etc. The following list contains 12 deadliest construction projects ever in history.

12. Fort Peck Dam

Fort Peck DamPhoto credit: Wikimedia

On 22nd September 1938, an engineer noticed a few problems in the wall of the dam. In the afternoon, cracks appeared on the wall and it began to slide back to the pool area. On that day, 134 men were working at the site. After some time, the whole dam start sliding and around twenty people were carried with it. Most of the dead bodies were never recovered. Other than the flooding, many people were killed at the construction site. Very high water pressure was reported as the reason of the accident.

11. Willow Island Disaster

Willow Island DisasterPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Willow Island disaster was the crumble of an under construction cooling tower of a power plant. On 27th April 1978, 51 workers were killed due to falling concrete tower. At that time, lots of thermal power plant was built and this is 1300 megawatts power plant building at the Willow Island. That day, when the cooling tower reached a height of 51 meters, the crane fell toward the tower. As the result, the whole tower collapsed and killed all the workers. Many of them were identified by the documents found in their pockets.

10. World Trade Center Twin Tower

World Trade Center Twin TowerPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The twin towers of New York were the tallest building at the time of opening in 1973. They were 526 and 541 meters high and each have 110 floors. Due to less safety, many workers died at the construction site. The authority of the construction site estimated the total death toll at 60 but everyone has a doubt in mind regarding the death stats. Some unnamed sources came up with terrified data about the accuracy of deaths. On 11th September 2001, Al-Qaeda hijacked two planes and completely destroyed both the towers.

9. Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee DamPhoto credit: Wikimedia

Building a big dam involves explosions and hard work at high heights. Grand Coulee Dam was constructed between 1933 and 1942 on the Columbia River in Washington. Now it is the largest electric power producing dam in the United States. To build the dam, a few hundreds of people sacrificed their lives. There is no exact report but some sources state that the death toll was more than eighty. Most of them were killed due to falling from the dam.

8. Hoover Dam

Hoover DamPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Hoover Dam, also known as Boulder Dam constructed on the Colorado River. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936. The dam has the largest reservoir in the United States. Official report states that thousands of workers contributed their efforts and more than one hundred people lost their lives during the whole project. At that time, many workers were injured during construction and died later in the camp and they never included in the record.

7. Aswan Dam

Aswan DamPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Aswan Dam is also known as High Dam, is situated in the Nile River in Egypt. It was built for the purpose to control floods, generate electricity and provide water for plantation. According to some source, more than 300,000 workers contributed to this construction and around 550 lost their lives during construction. All the deaths were caused because of lack of safety tools. Now this dam has a large impact on the economy and growth of the nation.

6. Karakoram Highway

Karakoram HighwayPhoto credit: Flickr

The Karakoram Highway connects China and Pakistan through Khunjerab Pass. It is the highest paved international road in the world at an altitude of 4693 meters. Due to the extreme conditions in which it was constructed, it is also referred as the eighth wonders of the world. It was constructed between 1959 and 1978. During the construction project, a confirmed report states that more than 900 people were dead and most of them because of landslides.

5. Hawk Nest Tunnel

Hawk Nest TunnelPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Hawk Nest tunnel disaster is one of the worst industrial disasters in the United States history. In 1927, three thousand workers were sent to the West Virginia for a hydroelectric project. While construction, workers found silica and the officer asked them to mine it too for purification process of steel. But they were not given any type of protection. A confirmed report counts the death toll at over 470 but other sources ranges more than one thousand workers.

4. United States Transcontinental Railroad

United States Transcontinental RailroadPhoto credit: Wikimedia

In 1860s, the United States government decided to lay down more than 1900 miles of railway track from Council Bluff to San Francisco. This was the first railroad in the United States which later became a dangerous project. During construction, thousands of labors were dead due to less safety to their life. There is no official death record because all the workers were prisoners or illegal immigrant. There are many unconfirmed reports that count the total deaths between 1000-1500.

3. White Sea Baltic Sea Canal

White Sea Baltic Sea CanalPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The White Sea Baltic Sea Canal connects the White Sea in Russia with Lake Onega. It was constructed between 1931 and 1933. It is 227 km in length and has limited advantage due to its low depth of only 3.5 meters. A rough report claimed that 126,000 workers were forced to work at the construction site, out of which around 12,000 were dead. According to other unofficial report, the total death toll was 25,000. Most of the people died of tortures, malnutrition and plague because all the workers were illegal immigrants.

2. Panama Canal

Panama CanalPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Panama Canal is a 77 km long canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the largest engineering project in history and also one of the deadly construction projects. France began the construction in 1880 and around 25,000 workers were dead because of the harsh conditions. In 1904, the US took the construction and that time 5600 more workers died of disease and starvation. During the whole project, around 30,600 workers died. Currently, the canal is under construction for another lane and scheduled to open in 2016.

1. Burma-Siam Railway Construction

Burma-Siam Railway Construction - Deadliest Construction ProjectsPhoto credit: Wikimedia

The Burma Railway or Death Railway is a 415 km long railway track that connects Burma, Thailand, Bangkok and Rangoon. It was built-in 1943 during the World War II. More than 180,000 Asian civilian labors and over 60,000 prisoners were forced to do work on the construction site. Out of these, around 90,000 civilians and over 12,000 prisoners died of several reasons. Most of them died of starvation and brutality of officers. Few workers were eaten by lions during the whole project.

Written by
Varun Kumar

I am a professional technology and business research analyst with more than a decade of experience in the field. My main areas of expertise include software technologies, business strategies, competitive analysis, and staying up-to-date with market trends.

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  • on number 3 the workers were not illegal immigrants, they were mostly political prisoners. thats a blatent re write of history to suit an agenda.