6 Natural Disasters That Were Caused by Human Stupidity
We like to mark-up natural disasters to everything from The Weather Channel to a large, invisible bearded man who hangs out on clouds and doesn't wear pants (the ghost of Ernest Hemingway). And while these things may be true, there's no avoiding the fact that we ourselves are responsible for many of the planet-murdering buttfucks that befall our delicate population.
The Draining of Lake Peigneur
In carpentry there's a saying: "Measure twice, cut once." Oil drillers used to have a similar saying: "Fuck measurements, let's rock."
"If there's not a hole in the ground by the time I finish this pipe, someone's getting a mustache headbutt."
In 1980, a Texaco oil rig was drilling for petroleum at Lake Peigneur, a Louisiana lake that sits directly on top of a salt mine, and has an average depth of six feet. Were it a swimming pool, it wouldn't have been safe for diving, so it probably wasn't surprising to anyone but the drillers when they punched a hole through the top of the mine.
At first the water simply trickled down below. But as the salt dissolved the hole expanded, and by lunch time they'd created a whirlpool that managed to suck the drilling platform, several barges and 65 or so acres of land into the lake. Because the water was going into the mine faster than the air could get out, spectators were treated to a geyser of water and debris that shot 400 feet into the air.
Fortunately no workers were killed by the whirlpool. Those on the platform, while unable to do their job properly, were smart enough to haul ass when things started getting a little too real, as were the salt miners below.
Probably something like this.
Though all the evidence was literally flushed down the drain, it was a bit difficult for Texaco to sidestep the mystery of the suddenly salty lake and giant-ass waterfall that wasn't there before, and were forced to pay out over $40 million dollars, an amount of money that ensured the oil industry would never again cause an environmental disaster.
The Boston Molassacre
The life of a construction worker at a molasses factory is a difficult one. Or at least we assume it is, because one named Aurthur Jell decided to half-ass it when he built a molasses storage tank in the North End of Boston. He never bothered to check his tank for leaks of any kind before calling it a day, leaving the locals to try and plug up its many cracks (presumably while joking about construction being slower than molasses).
"Get it? Because it's molasses. Seriously though, I've put you all at considerable risk."
As more leaks appeared, they knew the sight of molasses oozing from the cracks served as a warning of the disaster that could follow. So they hid them by painting the tank a molasses shade of brown.
January of 1919 was unseasonably warm. As the fermentation process in the tank continued to produce carbon monoxide, the pressure inside continued to build, causing the cracks within the tank to expand like a trucker's waistline. Eventually the rivets shot out of the tank, unleashing a 15-foot tall tidal wave that covered Boston, providing residents with a valuable look at what a melted Stay-Puft would have really done to New York at the end of Ghostbusters.
It would not have been a comedy.
The wave traveled through the city at 35 miles an hour, lifting a train off the tracks and crushing buildings in its sweet, sticky fury. The hot air released from the tanks also created a blast wave that reportedly threw vehicles off the road, though considering this took place in Gatsby's America we can only assume this meant a maelstrom of horses and Model Ts.
The military, police and the Red Cross joined in on the rescue effort, and the final toll would be 21 deaths, countless injuries and 87,000 man hours of the nastiest cleanup outside of an oil tanker spill.
The owners of the tank tried to pin the explosion on anarchists (presumably after first blaming hooch parlors and the women's suffrage movement) but in the end they were found liable and were forced to pay damages. The tank was never rebuilt, but to this day some Boston residents claim you can still smell the molasses on hot summer days.
Sidoarjo Mud Flow
If you're not familiar with a "mud volcano" we're going to suggest you not Google it as it almost certainly doubles as the name for a certain kind of fetish video. But it also refers to a geological phenomenon where underground pools of mud become pressurized and sometimes spew out to the surface.
Want to know what happens when you stand on top of one of those and start drilling into it?
You can ask the people at the drilling company, PT Lapindo Brantas, who began an operation in East Java, Indonesia to drill for natural gas (to a depth where no gas had previously been found), on a fault line a short distance away from the Ring of Fire. In an attempt to avoid a tragedy that even Ray Charles could see coming, more experienced drillers tried to warn them to stay away from the dangerous terrain, but the PT team just chuckled, swilled a beer and insisted that it was totally going to work.
Having already spit in the face of sensibility, the drill team decided it was time to cock punch the law as well, so in the second phase of drilling they opted not to use the required protective casing to stabilize the drill site, presumably subcontracting the job out to the Foot Clan.
Unsurprisingly, running a giant drill next to a fault line tends to result in seismic activity, and the result was the eruption of a mud volcano which continues to this very moment, spewing 88,000 cubic feet of bullshit each day and leaving 1.5 million people without homes as a result.
The drill team responsible first tried to pass the blame off on an earthquake that occurred two days before in Central Java, forming faults as far as their drill site 186 miles away. When scientists pointed out that an earthquake that severe would've shut down drilling (which obviously it hadn't), PT Lapindo Brantas was ordered to pay $278 million.
The higher-ups of Lapindo Brantas tried to sell their company to an off-shore group for $2, effectively dodging responsibility for the disaster. But the government stepped in and said if they intended to get out of paying victims for their losses, they'd have to get more creative than that. Some analysts believe the company will next declare bankruptcy in an effort to do that very thing.
That'll do, douchebags. That'll do.
The folks at the National Coal Board in Wales must have had some lazy parents. For 50 years, workers deposited various rocks and mining debris in the same poorly maintained area, not even bothering to sweep anything under the bed or a pile of clothes or something.
Instead they dumped it on the side of Merthyr Mountain which, other than being where Gandalf the Grey keeps his wizard condoms, is notable for being above the small village of Aberfan.
During that five decade period, several people voiced concern about the gargantuan pile of debris blocking out the sun, because unless you are a deep sea creature this is generally considered to be a bad thing. However, the area crew ignored this and continued to mock the basic laws of physics, because what's the point of having an emergency response system if you can't provoke the wrath of God?
And provoke they did. In October 1966, after days of heavy rain, water mixed with the debris to create a massive mudslide. As the debris raced towards the village it gained more force, colliding into a second pile of debris lower on the mountain because really, a back-up mudslide is the sort of thing you should have waiting in the wings.
Noting that Aberfan was lying in the path of this tremendous oversight, some workmen were quick to call and sound the alarm. But the call never went through because their telephone cable had been stolen. This would have been a simple unfortunate coincidence had it not been stolen several times before. When the only thing standing between you and impending doom are the operators at AT&T and some bandits keep stealing your telephones, you should probably check and see if you've got a dial tone well before there's a dire emergency.
In the end, the mudslide crushed and/or suffocated 144 people, 116 of which were children. The National Coal Board was found responsible and ordered to pay a whopping 500 pounds for every child lost (enough to buy a whole, shitty used car at the time!), but were otherwise unpunished.
Even the nine people found to be directly responsible managed to keep their jobs, but we're pretty sure they never got their phones turned back on.
During the 1920s, the Italian energy company, SADE, had a dream: to build a big-ass dam in the valley of the Vajont River. It would take decades, and during that time SADE assured everyone they had studied the terrain--including past landslides--and told those in the Vajont valley that everything was peachy.
Experts came out of the woodwork to call bullshit, saying that the side of neighboring Monte Toc would collapse into the basin if they dammed it up. SADE decided to call their bluff, wrapping up construction in 1959 and starting filling in 1960.
You can see where this is going.
After a series of minor landslides, SADE knew what they had to do: sue the media outlets who reported on the story.
A year later, five major earthquakes were reported, but SADE shrugged it off, citing the accepted scientific fact that earthquakes never strike the same place twice. They then proceeded to fill the basin to maximum level. Meanwhile, the mountain itself was moving downward a meter a day in an attempt to flee its own horrible tragedy.
"GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"
In 1963, SADE pushed their luck too far and after many attempts to fill and drain the reservoir, rain joined forces with a massive landslide into the reservoir itself and created a 750-foot tall wave that wiped out the villages of Erto and Casso, who had never been told a mega-tsunami was imminent.
The Italian government (which owned the dam by this point) immediately tried to pass the disaster off, blaming it on "God's mysterious designs of love," which is an excellent name for a J-Pop band but is a pretty weak excuse for ending 2,000 lives. After a lengthy trial, SADE was held responsible but never forced to pay damages, proving once and for all that crime (or at least negligence) doesn't pay, but it also doesn't necessarily cost you anything.
In May 1962, the citizens of Centralia, Pennsylvania hired a group of volunteer firefighters to clean up the town's landfill. By "landfill" we mean "the abandoned mine where they stuffed their trash" and by "clean up" we mean "set on fucking fire."
After burning the trash the firefighters made the bold decision to not actually put the fire out.
Naturally, the fire spread, growing throughout the mine and gaining intensity as it did so. Signs of distress began popping-up as the inferno caused damage to the terrain and began destroying sections of road across the borough, causing smoke to billow from below.
People started getting sick from both the toxic smoke rolling up from the ground and the lowering of oxygen levels as the underground hellfire consumed it from the air.
Despite the illness, ruined roads and sudden pillars of Satanic smoke, serious attention wasn't paid until 1979 when a gas station owner noticed his tanks had reached a temperature of 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
The state of Pennsylvania finally conceded that Centralia was burning from the inside out when in 1981, a 12-year-old boy was almost swallowed alive by his grandmother's back yard. After hearing of this story, the firefighters responsible offered no comment, presumably because they were busy not putting out any fires.
Once national attention was brought to the incident, Congress spent $42 million dollars in a massive relocation effort. Most residents, fearing everything from a large-scale collapse to consumption at the hands of a vengeful Earth, accepted the offer and moved to near by cities.
Still, some of the 1,000 or so residents stayed behind. In fact, up until recently, there were still a handful of residents (nine in 2007) who felt that standing your ground was more valuable than not living in a place that is constantly on fire.
"Yea, but if I move downtown I have to park in the street."
Few buildings still stand, having been destroyed by the state or nature itself. The fire continues to burn today and is predicted to continue burning for 250 years. Centralia is now reported to be empty, seeing only the occasional visitors in wayward adventurers and people who never played a Silent Hill game.
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And check out some man-made fictional disasters, in The 5 Lamest Disasters in Disaster Movie History. Or check out some corporate disasters, in 5 Corporate Promotions That Ended in (Predictable) Disaster.
And stop by our Top Picks to comedy of natural disaster-like proportions.
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