13 Worst Engineering Disasters of All Time

Along with great achievements, the Engineering world has also faced numerous failures. A well-constructed engineering project needs precision whereas shortcuts in engineering design can result in unexpected design failures. These kinds of small mistakes lead some biggest disasters that cause loss of million dollar properties and thousands of lives. The only good thing is we have learned a lot from these blunders and somehow they helped us to make future engineering better. What we have paid or lost, take a look at the following list of worst engineering disasters of all time.

13. Quebec Bridge

Quebec BridgeImage Source: Wikimedia

The Quebec Bridge was a national intercontinental railway project over the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada. The project failed twice, killing more than 88 people. It first opened for public in 1887. On 29th August 1907, the bridge collapsed into the river within 15 seconds. The authority found two engineers guilty and the commission who cleared their design. This bridge collapsed again on 11th September 1916.

12. Charles de Gaulle Airport Collapse

Charles de Gaulle Airport CollapseImage Source: Wikimedia

After few months of inauguration on 23rd May 2004, a large portion of the terminal 2E collapsed early in the day. It killed four people and injured three. A team of experts examined the place and initially found no single fault. Later the inquiry team found that the roof was not enough strong to hold the metal pillars. The reconstruction costs around $120 million and they reopened it on 30th March 2008.

11. Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway Collapse

Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway CollapseImage Source: Wikimedia

On 17th July 1981, more than 1600 people gathered for a tea dance at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City. Many people were standing on the walkways that were connected to each other. They were not enough vigorous to hold that amount of audience. When the connection fails, both the walkways fall on the ground floor and killed 114 people. This accident also injured 219 people. This was a major disaster in the engineering and architecture design.

10. Big Dig Tunnel

Big Dig Tunnel collapseImage Source: boston

The Big Dig tunnel collapse happened on 10th July 2006 when a 26 ton ceiling panel fell on a car. This accident killed a passenger and injured a driver. Numerous problems were noticed including the degraded quality of concrete. A small mistake in design caused the Big Dig project shut down for one year which results in long-term traffic. The cost to inspect, redesign and installing the collapsed part was $54 million.

9. Lotus Riverside Complex

Lotus Riverside ComplexImage Source: bwbx

The Lotus Riverside complex collapsed on 27th June 2009. It is a residential apartment complex situated in Shanghai, China. According to the investigators, they claimed the construction of the garage under the building is reason of collapse. They removed the large area of land and dumped it to the opposite side of the building. The final report says, the collapse was caused by the flaws in the design and material used in the construction.

8. SS Sultana Disaster

SS Sultana DisasterImage Source: Wikimedia

SS Sultana was a steamboat, used for the lower Mississippi cotton trade. It was constructed in 1863 by the John Litherbury Boatyard. It had the maximum capacity of 1719 tons including 376 passengers and 85 crew members. In 1865, US ordered the SS Sultana to take back the prisoners of the war to their homes. With the capacity of only 376 people, they boarded more than 2400 passengers. Due to the high capacity, three of the four boilers explode, killing more than 1800 passengers. The cause of the disaster was the inadequacy in the design.

7. Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater HorizonImage Source: Wikimedia

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on 20th April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to an explosion, 4.9 million barrels of ocean leaked to the ocean. It is considered as the biggest disaster in marine that killed eleven people. Investigators blamed the British Petroleum (BP) for using defective cement on the wall of the oil tank. BP was fined $4.5 billion by the US government for destroying the environment. In 2013, criminals and the civil settlement department charged the company $42 billion.

6. Skylab

SkylabImage Source: Wikimedia

Skylab was the America’s first space station that launched on 14th May 1973. At the time of launch, many damages were noticed including the loss of solar panels and meteoroid protected shield. The crew was never fully recovered the damages to its initial condition but made it usable for a long time. It finally returned to earth after 2249 days travelling a distance of 1.4 billion kilometers in space. Several minor failures cost the whole program more than $3.5 billion.

Read: 12 of the Deadliest Construction Projects in History

5. Chernobyl Disaster

Chernobyl Nuclear Power PlantImage Source: Wikimedia

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear disaster occurred on 26th April 1986 in Ukraine. A fire and explosion released a large amount of harmful chemicals all over the maximum areas of Europe. In 1991, the USSR Committee for the Safety in Industry reported the bad safety features as the reason of the blast. It is considered as one of the worst nuclear accident of all time. This blast cost around $18 billion and killed 31 people along with the long-term effect of several diseases including cancer.

4. Indian Power Grid Failure

Indian power grid failure 2012Image Source: Wikimedia

Indian power grid failure or 2012 India blackout was the biggest power outrage in India. It was a two-day blackout on 30th and 31st July 2012 that affected more than 620 million people. Almost half of the India’s population gets affected and it spread over 22 states, including Northern and Eastern India. As a matter of facts, monsoon is initially considered as the basic reason of this disaster. Due to the late arrival of monsoons, the demand of electricity automatically rises. The world’s biggest power failure began after the tripping of circuit breakers of Bina-Gwalior line. There were no backups and this problem gets bigger when 22 other states were left without power. After the investigation, the committee decided to start some new protection system to prevent further failures.

3. Tacoma Bridge

Tacoma BridgeImage Source: Wikimedia

The Tacoma Bridge was the first suspension bridge in Washington, US. It was opened on 1st July 1940 and its total length was 1810 meters. A few strange motions were detected in its initial days, but no one considered it as an issue. On 7th November 1940, the bridge vibrated horribly under the wind speed of 60km/h and suddenly crumbled.
However, its design inspired the future bridges. Ten years after the collapse, another bridge with advanced engineering was built on the same location. The material of the previous bridge now serves as the base of the new bridge.

2. Titanic

Titanic Remembrance Day1Image Source: wikimedia

The Titanic was a Royal British passenger ship. It was completed on 2nd April 1912 and it was on his maiden service. At the midnight of 14th April 1912, the world’s largest ship of that time collided with an iceberg. After two hours and forty minutes, the ship completely drowned in the ocean. It is estimated that more than 1500 people were drowned. In the UK, relief funds were organized, which was around half million pounds ($50 million today). Several investigations reported that no protection system was the big reason of the drowning. After that accident, new rules were started regarding safety.

1. The Bhopal Disaster

The Bhopal Disaster - Engineering DisastersImage Source: Wikimedia

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The Bhopal gas tragedy was the world’s worst industrial disaster occurred on 3rd December 1984. The methyl isocyanate (highly toxic gas) entered the open environment due to mismanagement of the MIC tank.  It injured more than 500,000 people and unofficial death toll was over 16,000. It attracts worldwide attention and became the biggest issue on the safety features in industrial areas. The gas leaked from the union carbide factory results in partial skin problems to permanent disabilities. The effect of the disaster is still found in the current generation living in Madhya Pradesh.

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.

I hold a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. If you'd like to learn more about my latest projects and insights, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at [email protected].

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