Human history has seen its fair share of bizarre (and often unexplained) disasters.
Check out this list of the top 11 weirdest disasters the world has ever seen:
Most natural disasters have a logical explanation – but what about those that don’t? The world is full of unexplained phenomenons that have left historians stumped.
We’ve compiled a list of the most bizarre disasters to take place in human history. From exploding lakes to bizarre forest explosions, here are 11 of the weirdest disasters our world has ever seen.
1. Centralia Mine Fire
Location: Centralia, PA
Date: May 1962 – Present
Disaster type: Coal seam fire
Casualties: 111 dead
On May 27, 1962, a fire was ignited near a coal mine Centralia, Pennsylvania. While the origins of the fire are unclear, it is speculated that the fire was ignited intentionally to clean up a landfill.
Unbeknownst to the citizens of Centralia who thought the fire had been doused, the fire had slowly crawled along coal-rich deposits, eventually making its way into the mine itself.
The fire was impossible to extinguish, and eventually made its way under homes and businesses, releasing toxic gases like carbon monoxide. Centralia was declared a municipalis non grata, and citizens were forced to relocate. The fire continues to burn today.
2. The Empire State Building Crash
Location: New York City, NY
Date: July 28, 1945
Disaster type: Plane crash
Casualties: 14 deaths (11 in building and 3 crew)
On July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber carrying two pilots and one passenger headed from New Bedford, Massachusetts to LaGuardia airport in New York City became lost in the dense morning fog. Air traffic control instructed the plane to land in nearby Newark airport instead, taking the plane directly over the island of Manhattan.
The pilot, flying low and slow and seeking visibility, narrowly missed the Chrysler building in midtown Manhattan. In doing so, however, the plane flew directly into the north side of the Empire State Building, its jet fuel exploding on impact. The crash and resulting fire killed 11 people.
3. The Great Boston Molasses Flood
Location: Boston, MA
Date: January 15, 1919
Disaster type: Molasses storage tank explosion
Casualties: 21 dead, 150 injured
On January 15, 1919, a large molasses storage tank burst at the Purity Distilling Company facility in Boston, Massachusetts. As a result, around 2,300,000 gallons of molasses flooded the streets at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.
In the end, 21 were killed and 150 were injured. According to local folklore, the streets still smelled of molasses on hot summer days for years afterward.
4. The Texas City Chain Reaction Explosions
Refineries and oil storage tanks of the Monsanto chemical plant burn in the waterfront area in Texas City, Texas, on April 16, 1947. The disaster, caused by the explosion of the nitrate-laden French ship Grandcamp, caused 561 deaths. (AP Photo)
Location: Port of Texas City, TX
Date: April 16, 1947
Disaster type: Industrial explosion
Casualties: 567 dead, 1,000 injured
On the morning of April 16, 1947, a French-owned cargo ship called the SS Grandcamp, carrying several tons of explosive petroleum nitrate, caught fire and exploded. In the immediate path of the explosion were the dock area, the Monsanto Chemical Company, grain warehouses, several oil and gas chemical storage tanks and other small companies and buildings. Debris flew throughout the city, igniting additional homes and businesses and causing other small explosions. The blast also caused a 15-foot tidal wave, which swept the dock area.
Another nearby ship, the SS High Flyer, was ignited by the explosion. It was towed 100 feet from the dock before it exploded 16 hours later.
5. The Chandka Forest Elephant Stampede
Location: Chandka Forest, India
Date: Spring of 1972
Disaster type: Elephant stampede
Casualties: 24 dead
In 1972, India was hit with a devastating heat wave and drought, causing widespread hunger and heat exhaustion all over the subcontinent. The greatest disaster, however, was that a herd of elephants, enraged by their hunger and desperate to get out of their present condition, stampeded through the villages in the Chandka Forest. The herd of large animals destroyed multiple buildings and trampled 24 people to death.
6. The Tunguska Event
Location: Tunguska River, Siberia (present-day Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia)
Date: June 30, 1908
Disaster type: Explosion in forest
Casualties: Large-scale loss of forest (no human casualties)
On the morning of June 30, 1908, a fireball was seen streaking across the sky in a remote area of Siberia. Moments later, a large explosion above the Tunguska River released enough energy to kill reindeer and flatten trees for miles around.
The Tunguska Event is believed to have been caused by an incoming astroid that exploded in the atmosphere and never actually struck earth. However, no meteorite fragments or crater have ever been found.
7. The Pittsburgh Gasometer Explosion
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Date: November 14, 1927
Disaster type: Gasometer explosion
Casualties: 28 dead, hundreds injured
On November 14, 1927, the largest cylindrical gasometer in the world, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, developed a leak. Repairmen sent to the scene used an open-flame blowtorch to find the leak. Unsurprisingly, the flame and natural gas proved to be a deadly combination. The explosion caused a rain of fire and debris, which covered a radius of over a mile, killed 28 people and injured countless others.
8. The Gates of Hell
Location: Derweze, Turkmenistan
Date: Discovered in 1971
Disaster type: Natural gas crater
Casualties: No deaths or injuries
In 1971, Soviet engineers searching for an oil field site in Turkmeninstan instead found a natural gas field. The engineers, concerned about the release of poisonous gas into nearby towns, decided to burn off the gas — a process they expected to take just a few weeks. To their surprise, the gas has burned for over four decades, with no end in sight.
9. The Exploding Lake
Location: Lake Nyos, Cameroon
Date: August 21, 1989
Disaster type: Limnic eruption (lake overturn)
Casualties: 1,700 deaths
In August 1989, Lake Nyos — a volcanic crater lake in Cameroon — released a cloud of carbon dioxide gas that covered the nearby valley and settlements. Over the next two days the cloud continued to spread over 15.5 miles, killing over 1700 people. Those who were not killed were unconscious for several days, waking to find that their family, friends and neighbors had passed away from inhaling the poisonous gas.
10. Lake Peigneur
Location: Iberia Parish, LA
Date: November 20, 1980
Disaster type: Accidental drilling
Casualties: No deaths or injuries
In 1980, a Texaco oil rig accidentally drilled into the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. The mistake resulted in a whirlpool that sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, countless trees and 65 acres of surrounding terrain. Miraculously, no lives were lost, and even the workers in the mine were able to escape to safety thanks to a well-executed evacuation plan.
11. Sugar Explosion
Location: Port Wentworth, GA
Date: February 7, 2008
Disaster type: Sugar dust explosion
Casualties: 14 deaths, 47 injuries
In February 2008, an explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia killed 14 and injured 40. While the direct cause of the explosion is not known, it is believed to have originated in the storage silos under the building and been caused by outdated construction.
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