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Global Disaster Management: Man Made Disasters

This research guide is a starting point for research into the management of global disasters. It supports Pitt classes and workshops like - Building Community Resilience to Global Hazards, as well as the Hazard SEES Team members and their research.

Disaster Type


Dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas on April 18, 1985 {NOAA - public domain].


Oil fires set in Kuwait during the Gulf War by Iraqi forces [US Army public domain photo]

Examples of Man-Made Disasters

  • File:North Aral Sea 2000 and 2011.gif                                 
  • Comparison of Aral Sea between 2000 and 2011 [above] and between 1989 and 2008 [below. Both NASA photos in public domain].
  • Destruction of the Aral Sea - The Aral Sea, located in  Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, was once the world's 4th largest seas.  Since 1960 it has lost 90% of its water volume due to irrigation and agricultural diversion of inflowing water. The resulting severe environmental and salt problems have changed the climate around the sea, resulting in dust storms that spread disease, and the deaths of many species in the salty lake.
  • File:Aral Sea 1989-2008.jpg
  • Kuwaiti Oil Fires - were caused by Iraqi military forces setting fire to more than 700 oil wells as part of a scorched earth policy while retreating from Kuwait in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. The fires started in January and February 1991 and the last one was extinguished by November 1991.

Emergency Planning News Feed


Top 10 Man Made Disasters

WatchMojo.comvideo video on the Top 10 Man Made Disasters:

Greatest Man-Made Disasters

        File:Deepwater Horizon oil spill - May 24, 2010 - with locator.jpg

NASA's Terra Satellites Sees Spill on May 24, 2010 [public domain].

  • 10.  Three Mile Island Accident (1979) - resulted from a nuclear reactor's partial core meltdown at 3MI's Unit 2 Nuclear Generation Station,  in Dauphin County near Harrisburg, PA on March 28, 1979.
  •  9.   Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Disaster (1989) - an American oil tanker collided with the Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 24, 1989.
  •  8.   Dust Bowl or Dirty Thirties (1930s-1940s) - excessive farming and natural drought combined to create massive dust storms or "black blizzards) across the Great Plains states.
  •  7.   Seveco/Meda (Italy) Dioxin Disaster (1976) - a reactor at the ICMESA chemical plant exploded releasing a toxic cloud of dioxin on July 10, 1976 near Sevesco and Meda Italy.
  •  6.   Minamata Disease / Mercury Poisoning (1932-1968) - first discovered in 1956, caused by the long time release of mercury into the Shiranui Sea by the Chisso Corp. Cases of mercury poisoning resulted from eating contaminated fish and shellfish.  
  •  5.   Love Canal (1940s-50s and again 1976-78) -  Work began on the canal to connect the Niagara River with Lake Ontario in the late 1890s but only a mile was ever dug.  So in the 1920s Niagara Falls NY started using it as a  municipal garbage dump site.  Hooker Chemical used it for chemical waste drums between 1942-53 before donating to the city. In the late 1970s investigative newspaper reporters began documenting the toxic neighborhood and health problems.
  •  4.   Great Smog of '52, London (1952) - the "Big Smoke," Between December 5-9, 1952, a severe air pollution event affected London.  It was caused by airbourne coal pollutants, combined with cold weather, windless conditions and an anticyclone (inversion).  
  •  3.   Deepwater Horizon Oil SpillThe April 20, 2010 explosion and subsequent fire on Transocean's Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU), resultied in the massive BP offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world, and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.   The explosion killed 11 workers and injured 16 others.
  •  2.   Chernobyl Disaster, Ukraine, Russia  (1986) - Four hundred times more radioactive material was released from Chernobyl than by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.   This catastrophic nuclear accident occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then officially the Ukrainian SSR). The explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.
  •  1.   Bhopal Disaster or the Bhopal gas tragedy (1984) -  Often considered the world's worst industrial disaster, this gas leak incident at the Union Carbide India pesticide plant in Bhopal India occuried on the night of 2–3 December 1984. Over 500,000 people n and around the nearby shanty towns were exposed to toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. 

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