The 10 worst environmental disasters in history

The 10 worst environmental disasters in history

By mistake, by omission or with deliberation, a series of catastrophes have taken place that have cost thousands of human and animal lives and irreparable ecological damage. This is a list of some of the worst disasters in history.

Minamata disease Kyushu Island, Japan

It all started with the strange behavior of cats. Sometimes they convulsed for no reason and even threw themselves into the sea where they drowned. The first human patient of what the locals call "feline dancing disease" (now Minamata disease) was diagnosed in 1956. The symptoms are: loss of motor functions, difficulty speaking, seizures and lack of control of the limbs. The cause is due to the discharge into the sea of ​​wastewater from a plastic factory, the Chisso Corp., with high levels of heavy metals such as mercury, which the locals consumed through fish, a fundamental part of their diet. The disease has caused thousands of deaths among residents of the place.

Exxon Valdez Alaska, USA

During the night of 3/24/89, the Exxon Valdez tanker collided with Bligh Reef and ran aground in the waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound. His hull opened and he began to vomit crude into the cold, crystal clear waters. Almost 41 million tons of oil were spilled uncontrollably, causing a 2000 km “black tide” patch, the consequences of which have not been overcome. Fishermen in the area were affected and a huge number of species died from the pollution: waterfowl, birds, otters, sea lions, porpoises, and whales, among others.

Union Carbide Bhopal pesticide factory, India

At approximately midnight on 12/2/84, more than 45 tnl. of "methyl isocyanate" a poisonous gas, escaped the facility and within hours killed thousands of people. Over the days, mortality increased (it is estimated that 1,500 people perished directly) and those who survived had very serious consequences: blindness, bodily dysfunctions and organic insufficiencies. For years the children of Bhopal have been born with horrible deformities and diseases. In 1989, the Unión Carbide company compensated the victims, distributing more than half a billion dollars, an amount that those affected consider insufficient to face the irreversible consequences of what is considered the worst industrial disaster in history.

Love Canal New York State, USA

Near Niagara Falls, a huge water canal remained unfinished, which in the 1940s and 1950s was used by the Hooker Chemical Company, the City of Niagara, and the navy to dump toxic waste. After conveniently covering it, given the expansion of the city, a school was built there. In 1978 a bubbling liquid began to flow through cellars and cellars and there were obvious cases of contamination in almost the entire population: birth defects, skin problems, poisonings, spontaneous abortions, etc. After difficult and complicated discussions with the New York state government, the site was evacuated and declared an "emergency zone."

Aral Sea Border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

The Aral Sea became one of the largest lakes in the world. From the 60s the former U.S.S.R. he decided to plant cotton on the surrounding desert plains; In order to convert the site into an orchard, they diverted the two rivers that feed the sea (the Amu Darya and the Sir Darya) with dams, reservoirs and canals. Although the plan was successful, the environmental damage has no remedy: disappearance of spaces, extreme aridity and the reduction of the sea that today is a ship graveyard and has only a quarter of the original flow. Its inhabitants were also affected by the fact that the contamination of drinking water enhanced and aggravated diseases such as arthritis, bronchitis and kidney ailments.

Seveso dioxin cloud, Italy

On 7/10/76 north of Milan, a chemical plant exploded causing a huge and dense dioxin cloud that quickly covered the city of Seveso. The animals were the first to die, but soon after the inhabitants began to experience blurred vision, nausea, and disfiguring sores (chloracne) that especially affected the little ones. The city had to be evacuated and on their return the inhabitants built a large park on the ruins of the factory and the tank where the animals that were sacrificed were buried.

Vladimir Illich Lenin nuclear plant 18 km from Chernobyl city, Ukraine

This was the worst disaster in history involving a nuclear plant. On 4/26/86, reactor No. 4 at the nuclear power plant exploded in the course of a control test (a simulated “power outage”). As a result of the incident, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere with worse consequences than the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs. The radioactive cloud was pushed by the winds towards Europe. Since the incident, thousands of people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and around the plant there is a restriction area of ​​more than 30 km. The damaged reactor was sealed and covered by a large concrete sarcophagus but its slow but palpable deterioration is worrying. Since 2000, the plant has been inactive but requires periodic reviews, which is why around 4000 technicians usually visit it regularly.

Oil wells burned in Kuwait

In January 1991 the "Gulf War" ended and the Iraqis decided to burn 700 oil wells as part of the so-called "scorched earth" tactic. The area burned for more than 7 months and the skies turned into a true hell. Petroleum lakes formed, "black rain" fell, and 5% of the ground was covered in "tar" (sand combined with fire-hardened oils and soot). The consequences for villagers and livestock were disastrous: air quality dropped alarmingly and respiratory problems worsened, many died and others had to leave their precarious homes.

Three Mile Island Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

On the small island there is a nuclear plant in which on 9/4/79 there was first a mechanical failure and then a kind of human error, which caused a large amount of vaporized water and hydrogen with radioactive contents to end up in the atmosphere. Thorough cleaning of the reactor took more than 10 years.

Tokaimura Ibaraki, Japan

On 9/30/99 at the JCO plant due to an incorrect manipulation of a uranium-based solution, an impossible to control reaction took place, which began to emit gamma radiation and neutrons. The causative operators died and both the other workers of the plant and hundreds of neighbors were affected for miles around. After the incident, to avoid "human error" the Japanese nuclear plants automated the most compromised procedures.


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