Disaster

French soldiers killed in train accident

More than 500 French soldiers are killed when their train derails in Modane, France, on this day in 1917. The troops were returning from fighting World War I in Italy. There was ample warning that the conditions were dangerous, but the French officers ignored the expert advice ...read more

Grenfell Tower fire ills 71 in London

Shortly before 1:00 A.M. On June 14, 2017, a fire tore through West London’s 24-story Grenfell tower. Seventy-one people died, scores were injured and hundreds were left homeless in Britain’s deadliest fire in more than a century. The fire started in a Hotpoint brand ...read more

Mt. Everest sees its single deadliest day

On this day in 2014, 16 Nepali mountaineering guides, most of them ethnic Sherpas, are killed by an avalanche on Mt. Everest, the Earth’s highest mountain. It was the single deadliest accident in the history of the Himalayan peak, which rises more than 29,000 feet above sea level ...read more

19 firefighters die in Arizona blaze

On this day in 2013, 19 firefighters perish while battling a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona. All were members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, an elite group of wildland firefighters that was part of the Prescott (Arizona) Fire Department. It was the deadliest ...read more

Massive oil spill begins in Gulf of Mexico

On this day in 2012, an explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, kills 11 people and triggers the largest offshore oil spill in American history. The rig had been in the final phases of ...read more

Massive earthquake strikes Haiti

On this day in 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastates the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. The quake, which was the strongest to strike the region in more than 200 years, left over 200,000 people dead and some 895,000 Haitians homeless. The earthquake hit southern Haiti at ...read more

Yellow fever breaks out in Philadelphia

The death toll from a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia hits 100 on this day in 1793. By the time it ended, 5,000 people were dead. Yellow fever, or American plague as it was known at the time, is a viral disease that begins with fever and muscle pain. Next, victims often ...read more

Yangtze River peaks in China

On this day in 1931, the Yangtze River in China peaks during a horrible flood that kills 3.7 million people directly and indirectly over the next several months. This was perhaps the worst natural disaster of the 20th century. The Yangtze River runs through southern China, ...read more

Winter storm paralyzes southern New England

A powerful early winter storm batters the New England coast on this day in 1898, killing at least 450 people in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was Thanksgiving Day when strong winds, in excess of 40 miles per hour, began blowing from the Atlantic Ocean across the New ...read more

Waters of Kentucky River peak

On this day in 1927, the Kentucky River peaks during a massive flood that kills 89 people and leaves thousands homeless. Torrential rains caused this unprecedented flood. An account from the Mountain Eagle newspaper out of Whitesburg, Kentucky, in Letcher County, provides a ...read more

Volcanic eruption sweeps away train

In a highly unusual chain of events, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand causes a flood that sweeps away a train filled with passengers on this day in 1953. More than 150 people lost their lives in this improbable disaster. At the top of a 9,000-foot volcano, Mount Ruapehu, on New ...read more

Volcanic eruption kills 80,000

Heavy eruptions of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia are letting up by this day in 1815. The volcano, which began rumbling on April 5, killed almost 100,000 people directly and indirectly. The eruption was the largest ever recorded and its effects were noted throughout the ...read more

Volcano buries victims in fiery mud

The Bandai volcano erupts on the Japanese island of Honshu on this day in 1888, killing hundreds and burying many nearby villages in ash. Honshu, the main island of the Japanese archipelago, is in an area of intense geological activity, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions ...read more

Volcanic eruption buries Caribbean city

On this day in 1902, Martinique’s Mount Pele begins the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The following day, the city of Saint Pierre, which some called the Paris of the Caribbean, was virtually wiped off the map. Mount Pele, the name meaning bald in French, ...read more

“Unsinkable” Titanic sinks

The RMS Titanic, billed as unsinkable, sinks into the icy waters of the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage, killing 1,517 people. The United Kingdom’s White Star Line built the Titanic to be the most luxurious cruise ship in the world. It was nearly ...read more

Two trains crash in Japan

On this day in 1991, two diesel trains carrying commuters crash head-on, killing more than 40 people and injuring 400 near Shigaraki, Japan. This was the worst rail disaster in Japan since a November 1963 Yokohama crash killed 160 people. Shigaraki, a town near Kyoto, is famous ...read more

Two big quakes rock California

Two of the strongest earthquakes ever to hit California strike the desert area east of Los Angeles on this day in 1992. Although the state sits upon the immense San Andreas fault line, relatively few major earthquakes have hit California in modern times. Two of the strongest, ...read more

Two planes collide over Germany

A Russian Tupolev 154 collides in midair with a Boeing 757 cargo plane over southern Germany on this day in 2002. The 69 passengers and crew on the Russian plane and the two-person cargo crew were all killed. The collision occurred even though each plane had TCAS (Traffic ...read more

Two airplanes collide over New York City

On this day in 1960, two airplanes collide over New York City, killing 134 people on the planes and on the ground. The improbable mid-air collision is the only such accident to have occurred over a major city in U.S. history. It was a snowy morning in New York when a United DC-8 ...read more

Tsunami pounds Japanese islands

One of the first tsunamis ever to be recorded devastates the east coast of Kyushu, the southernmost major island of Japan, on this day in 1596. The tsunami was set off by a relatively small earthquake in Beppu Bay on Kyushu’s east coast. Despite its weakness, the quake, which was ...read more

Tsunami ravages Japanese coast

As daylight breaks, survivors of a tsunami in Japan find that more than 20,000 of their friends and family have perished overnight. The tsunami resulted from a disturbance in the Japan Trench, 120 miles east of Japan’s main island of Honshu. This deep underwater gorge is ...read more

Tsunami hits Alexandria, Egypt

On this day in the year 365, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Greece causes a tsunami that devastates the city of Alexandria, Egypt. Although there were no measuring tools at the time, scientists now estimate that the quake was actually two tremors in succession, the ...read more

Tsunami hits Hawaii

A tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Chile travels across the Pacific Ocean and kills 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii, on this day in 1960. The massive 8.5-magnitude quake had killed thousands in Chile the previous day. The earthquake, involving a severe plate shift, ...read more

Truck explosion kills 3,000 in Afghanistan

On this day in 1982, a truck explodes in the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan, killing an estimated 3,000 people, mostly Soviet soldiers traveling to Kabul. The Soviet Union’s military foray into Afghanistan was disastrous by nearly every measure, but perhaps the worst single ...read more

Tsunami devastates Indian Ocean coast

A powerful earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on this day in 2004 sets off a tsunami that wreaks death and devastation across the Indian Ocean coastline. The quake was the second strongest ever recorded and the estimated 230,000 dead made this disaster one of the 10 ...read more

Trains collide near Tokyo

Two commuter trains and a freight train collide near Tokyo, Japan, killing more than 160 people and injuring twice that number on this day in 1962. It was Constitution Day in Japan when a commuter train pulled out of Mikawashima station at 9:30 p.m. taking passengers out of ...read more

Trains collide outside Nashville

Two trains collide outside Nashville, Tennessee, killing 101 people, on this day in 1918. Despite the high death toll, the story was mainly ignored by the national press. Instead, the engineer headed out after a freight train passed by, a terrible mistake. Train No. 1 had ...read more

Tropical Storm Allison wreaks havoc

On this day in 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hits Houston, Texas, for the second time in three days. Although Allison never even approached hurricane status, by the time it dissipated in New England a week later, it had killed about 50 people and caused $5 billion in damages. ...read more

Trains collide in Pakistan

A passenger train collides with an oil-tanker train in the Gambar province of western Pakistan, killing 300 people and seriously injuring another 150 on this day in 1957. The passenger train, bound for Karachi from western Pakistan, was overcrowded, which was not unusual at the ...read more

Trains collide in Pakistan

Two trains collide in Sangi, Pakistan, on this day in 1990, killing between 200 and 300 people and injuring an estimated 700 others. This was the worst rail accident to date in Pakistan. The train Zakaria Bahauddin (named after a holy man according to Pakistani tradition) had a ...read more

Trains collide and explode in India

A collision between two trains in northern India kills 358 people on this day in 1995. It was the worst train accident in the country’s history, eclipsing a deadly 1981 accident. Both of the killer crashes involved cows. Due to the special significance of the cow in the Hindu ...read more

Trains collide in Bangladesh

The collision of two trains in Jessore, Bangladesh, kills 76 people on this day in 1972. This disaster resulted from one simple error by a train-station operator. An express train loaded far beyond capacity, as is common in Bangladesh, left the southern port city of Khulna ...read more