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Man – made disasters. Some environmental disasters are caused by humans. We are responsible for 2 main sorts of disasters.

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Some environmental disasters are caused by humans
Some environmental disasters are caused by humans...

  • We are responsible for 2 main sorts of disasters.

  • The first are short-term events that happen suddenly. This kind of disaster might be on the television news: a terrible oil spill or a leak from a chemical factory or a nuclear accident.

  • The second sort of man-made disaster takes place over a long period of time. These are less likely to appear on the news because they don’t happen as a single event like an oil spill. In some ways these long-term disasters are more serious. They take a long time to sort out because they build up over a long time. Examples of this include the effect our industries are having on the world’s climate, loss of some of the world’s species of animals and the destruction of the world’s forests.

Bridge collapses
Bridge collapses

The Westgate Bridge Catastrophe

Melbourne, 15th October 1970

The building of the Westgate Bridge was

welcomed by the people of Melbourne because

it would connect the city’s eastern and western

suburbs. Instead it turned out to be a nightmare.

Thirty-five workmen were killed when a span of

the bridge collapsed during construction.

Westgate bridge catastrophe
Westgate Bridge Catastrophe

The ‘pinging’ noise was heard, followed by the screech of metal grinding over metal. The gap widened and one end of the span collapsed. The other span slid down, its 2000-tonne weight plummeting into the river.

Man made disasters

The Tasman Bridge Collapse

Hobart, 5th January 1975

On a dark, drizzly night early in 1975 a 7000

tonne ship carrying a large cargo of ore tried to

pass under Hobart’s Tasman Bridge, but didn’t

make it through. Not only did the bridge

collapse but the ‘Lake Illawarra’ sank like a

stone, claiming 12 lives.

Tasman bridge collapse
Tasman Bridge Collapse

A 73-metre long section of the bridge’s roadway fell onto the ‘Lake Illawarra’. On the bridge, cars skidded as lights went out. Four cars plunged 50 metres into the Derwent River. Two others stopped, half hanging over the edge of the bridge.


  • Since the birth of planes, aircraft have crashed, often with serious consequences. This is because of the unforgiving nature of flight.

  • Approximately 80 percent of all aviation accidents occur shortly before, after, or during takeoff or landing, and are often described as resulting from 'human error'; mid-flight disasters are rare but not entirely unheard of. Among other things, the latter have been caused by bombs.

  • The deadliest aviation-related disaster of any kind, considering fatalities on both the aircraft and the ground, was the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 with the intentional crashing of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. The crashes killed 2,988, most of them occupants of the World Trade Center towers or emergency personnel responding to the disaster.

September 11 attacks
September 11 Attacks

Images of this terrifying day were broadcast worldwide. Onlookers watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed from the impact of the collision.

Man made disasters

The March 27, 1977 Tenerife disaster

  • This disaster remains the accident with the highest number of airliner passenger fatalities.

  • In this disaster, 583 people died when a KLM Boeing 747 attempted take-off and collided with a taxiing Pan Am 747 at Los Rodeos Airport.

  • Pilot error, communications problems, fog, and airfield congestion due to a bombing and a second bomb threat at another airport, which diverted air traffic to Los Rodeos, all contributed to this catastrophe.

Tenerife disaster
Tenerife Disaster

This disaster remains the accident with the highest number of airline passenger fatalities.

Mining accidents
Mining accidents

  • The Beaconsfield Mine collapseoccurred on 25 April 2006 in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, Australia.

  • Of the 17 people who were in the mine at the time, 14 escaped immediately following the collapse, one was killed, and the remaining two were found alive after five days, using a remote controlled device.

  • These two miners were rescued on Tuesday 9 May, a full two weeks after being trapped nearly a kilometre below the surface.

Beaconsfield mine collapse
Beaconsfield Mine Collapse

At 9:26 pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on 21st April 2006 a seismic event triggered an underground rock fall at the Beaconsfield gold mine in northern Tasmania.


  • A report from the Australian Institute of Criminology has found that half of all bushfires are deliberately lit.

  • The report says that the damage bill from arson is about $1.6 billion per year.

  • Most deliberate bushfires occur within or near the most densely populated regions of Australia. Consequently, the majority of deliberate fires occur along the coastal fringe, where climatic conditions are generally milder, and the period of adverse bushfire weather is shorter. Although they have the potential to burn out of control and cause immense damage, overall, the majority of deliberately lit fires are small in area (less than one to two hectares). Analysis of a number of different data sources indicates that the highest rates of recorded deliberately lit fires during adverse bushfire weather occur in areas, regions or jurisdictions with highest rates of recorded deliberate fires generally.

Black saturday bushfires
Black Saturday Bushfires

The bushfires in Victoria have claimed more than a thousand homes and we have a death toll nearing 200 with more expected as authorities enter ruined towns. With fires already burning, conditions on Saturday made it worse. Black Saturday, Saturday the 7^th of February was the hottest day on record, the temperature reached 46.4 degrees Celsius meaning many residents didn’t stand a chance due to extreme hear and strong winds. Hundreds of fires burn out of control, leaving only destruction, emergency services where stretched to the limit.

Railway disasters
Railway disasters

The Southern Aurora Crash

Violet Town, 7th February 1969

  • Nine people died and 36 people were injured when the ‘Southern Aurora’, travelling from Sydney to Melbourne, collided with a goods train near Violet Town in Victoria at 7.10 am on 7th February 1969.

  • The driver of the train was declared negligent because he had continued to drive trains while suffering from a heart problem.

The southern aurora crash
The Southern Aurora Crash

An inquest found three crew of the Southern Aurora were responsible for the crash and deaths of 9 people.

The driver was declared negligent because he had a heart condition yet continued to drive trains.

The fireman was also to blame because he left the control cabin to fill a kettle when he should have been looking out for signals at the loop.

The guard was also guilty because he had fallen asleep and so was not able to apply the emergency brake.


  • Water is one of our most important natural resources and is essential for life. Despite this, for thousands of years people have used waterways as dumping grounds for waste. This has caused great damage to marine plants and animals, and increased the health risk to humans and animals who live near or drink the water.

  • “Evidently we are leaking some oil.” This message came from the captain of the giant supertanker ‘Exxon Valdez’. His 200,000-tonne ship had run aground only hours after taking on a full load at the oil terminal in Alaska, USA. It was Good Friday, 24th March 1989. By Easter Monday, 10 million gallons of crude oil had spilled into the sea. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

Oil spills
Oil spills

An oil tanker runs aground, spilling part of its cargo into the sea. Disasters like this have a terrible short-term effect on sea life and birds.

Man made disasters


  • Smog is a blend of smoke and fog, a choking mixture of man-made pollution and natural mist, which settles over cities with potentially fatal results.

  • In London, then the world’s largest city, the Great Smog of 1952 killed 4000 people in four days – and twice that number died later from its effects. After years of ignoring the problem, the government was forced to introduce tough clean-air laws.

Pollution in china
Pollution in China

Every day huge amounts of pollution pour into our atmosphere, storing up trouble for future generations.


The Loch Ard Shipwreck, Port Campbell, 1st June 1878

  • The Loch Ard was a ship that was wrecked off the western coast of Victoria, near Port Campbell, in 1878. Only two of the 51 passengers survived.

  • The ship lifted high and crashed down on it’s starboard (right) side onto the rocks of Mutton Bird Island. 49 people drowned. The only two to reach the shore alive were two teenagers, Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce.


It should never have

happened. On the night of

14th April 1912, the 46,000

tonne ship ‘Titanic’ smashed

into the iceberg, buckling the

plates of her hull so that the

water poured in. In under 3

hours she was gone, and than

1,500 people with her.


Today, famine continues to stalk many countries,

especially in Africa, where food shortages due to

crop failure can turn into disaster because of

war or corruption.

Famine in ireland
Famine in Ireland

  • It was a national tragedy in Ireland. By the 1840s, half the people depended on just one food – the potato. It gave them most of the nutrition they needed.

  • Then without warning, a new disease infected the potato plants, wiping out the harvest for years.

  • In the famine that followed, a million Irish people died of starvation and sickness.