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Disaster Facts II

Man-Made Disasters

There are countless types of man-made disasters happening daily, including industrial accidents, chemical leaks, oil spills and accidental and deliberately set fires. All of these disasters affect the health and safety of workers, health care and safety personnel, and the general public and can cost millions of dollars. Our hearts and minds remember the most terrible yet the least frequent disasters such as Chernobyl, Oklahoma City, and 9-11. Here are a few of the facts and figures of only a handful of man-made disasters that remind us that disasters can take all types of forms. Refer to Disaster Facts I for information on natural disaster types.

Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Disaster

  • On April 26, 1986, at 1:23 a.m. a melt down of the nuclear reactor core occurred at the Chernobyl plant in Russia, releasing 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the atmosphere. High levels of radioactivity spread throughout Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, which contaminated the land and caused illness and disease.
  • The event killed 31 people within the first week from radiation poisoning. Radiation poisoning resulted in at least 2,800 deaths, according to the head of the Ukrainian Radiological Studies Centre.
  • 135,000 people within 20-mile radius were evacuated, and another 210,000 people were resettled. A new town for the personnel of the power plant was created.
  • It cost the Soviet Economy $12.8 billion and the economics of the area has never recovered fully as much of the land continues to be contaminated.
  • The World Health Organization linked nearly 700 cases of later thyroid cancer in children and adolescents to the accident (The average thyroid cancer rate was 4-6 incidents per million for children (birth to 15 years) prior to the accident and five years later it had risen to 45 incidents per million.

(Sources: Russian National Report, (2003) “Chernobyl Accident Results and Problems in Eliminating Its Consequences in Russia 186-2001.” Nuclear Energy Agency, “Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impact 2003 Update of Chernobyl: 10 Years On”, “Chernobyl Ten Years Later,” Greenpeace. See http://www.tony.deangelo.com/chernobyl.html)

Oklahoma City Bombing

  • On April 19, 1995, at 9:03 a.m., a terrorist with a grudge against the United States Government detonated a truck filled with 4,800 pounds of explosives outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • The attack killed 168 adults and children, injured thousands, and cost tens of millions of dollars.
  • The building was reduced to rubble and hauled away. Now, The Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism stands in its place.

Source: Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. (2002). "Oklahoma City 7 Years later lessons for other communities." http://www.mipt.org

9/11 Disasters

  • On September 11, 2001, passenger planes were flown and exploded into the Twin Towers Buildings in New York City, and the Pentagon Building in Washington D.C., as a act of terrorism to the United States.
  • The nation mourned the deaths of more than 3,000 people.
  • As of 1-31-03, the Red Cross had used $741 million, from the Liberty Fund, to help more than 55,000 families cope. Of that, $596 million has been in the form of direct financial assistance to families of those killed or seriously injured, displaced workers, residents, and the emergency personnel.
  • Additionally, 99 million has been spent on immediate disaster relief including 14 million meals to families and emergency workers. There were 238,000 individuals given counseling and 36 delivery sites.
  • The rubble of the twin towers building is still being hauled away and there are new health concerns for rescue and post-cleanup workers and residents due to the debris in the air.
  • The emotional and financial costs to United States citizens, the United States and world economies are ongoing.
  • Our randomly selected survey sample includes the terrorist attacks of 9-11, as pertaining to Tompkins County, and the Borough of Brooklyn.


  • “Nationwide, there is a home fire death every 170 minutes.”
  • “Fires kill more Americans than all natural disasters combined. Eighty-five percent of all fire deaths occurred in residences.”
  • In 2002, there were 389,000 reported home fires in the United States, resulting in 2,670 deaths, 13,650 injuries and $5.9 billion in direct property damages. Here are some more facts on fires:
    o Most fires happen at night when people have gone to bed. Smoking in bed, faulty heater equipment and cooking are the number one causes of fire deaths.
    o In 1998, an estimated 1,380 structure fires in school, college and university dormitories, fraternity/sorority housing occurred. These fires resulted in 87 injuries and $5.9 million in direct property damage. The leading causes were incendiary or suspicious. The second and third leading causes were due to cooking and smoking, respectively.
    o In 1999, there were an estimated 418,000 intentionally set fires that resulted in 622 deaths and with a cost of $2.7 billion in property damage. Juvenile fire-setters accounted for at least 50% of those arrested for arson in 2001.
  • Fires can strike anywhere and our news medias are frequently reporting fires in public places, such as theaters, nightclubs, and apartment buildings that can result in injuries and death.

(Source of fire information: The National Fire Prevention Association, NFPA Online Research and Reports. http://www.nfpa.org/Research/index.asp )

Accidents Impacting Public Settings

  • Here are a few of the newspaper headings across the nation of man-made accidents:
    Cinema gas leak leaves 18 in hospital.
    o The General Hospital in Cambridge shut down briefly following a gas leak and carbon monoxide exposure into the hospital from a truck loading supplies to the hospital.
    o Casino evacuated after chlorine leak and several persons taken to the hospital.
    o Train carrying acid derails in Delaware causing acid spill and 200 residents evacuated.
    o An elementary school was evacuated after one of the cars from a train that had derailed nearby released a vapor cloud into the air.
    o A shopping center was evacuated because of gas leak caused by a snow removal accident.
    o Over 150 people from a facility for persons with mental disabilities were evacuated and several taken to the hospital for observation due to an odor that was later discovered to be a forklift that had been left running without proper ventilation.
    o An 18-wheeler dumped its load of chlorine on the road-causing Jackson County Road to be closed and nearby residents evacuated.

Source: http://www.safteng.net/, Chemical Accidents, page 2, updated on 03/13/03

Accidents with Hazardous Substances

  • The deadliest industrial accident happened on December 4, 1984, in Bhopal India, when 44 tons of Methyl isocyanate, a poisonous gas, was released in the air. This accident killed 2,800 people and injured 50,000 people. In response the United States enacted legislation called the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act. The purpose of the act was to improve local emergency response to accidental and unplanned releases of hazardous substances, and provide citizens and local governments access to information about hazardous substances located in the community.
  • Listed below are just a few examples of accidents involving hazardous substance in the United States:o An explosion releasing Methyl parathion injuries 150 at a plant in Memphis, while an explosion releasing ethylene kills 23 and injuries 125 in Pasadena California.
    o Two hundred thirty-six people were injured due to a fire involving pesticides in Coachella.
    o A fire and explosion injures 350 and kills 2 employees.
    o In Richmond, a release of Sulphuric acid injuries 6,250 persons and an emission of dust and soot sent 300 people to the hospital.
    o An explosion involving Magnesium kills 25 and injuries 61 in Woodbine.

Source: OECD, 199 Publications “The State of the Environment” and UNEP-APELL Disasters Database http://www.uneptie.org/pc/apell/diastercat/html



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