Top 10 Tragic Accidents in History

Accidents happen. Whether it’s just a young girl choking on her hotdog sandwich or a major unintentional nuclear explosion, accidents have a way of sneaking up on people when we least expect them.

All over the planet, countless accidents happen every minute. In fact, next to diseases and other health problems, it is the second leading cause of death throughout the world. Some accidents occur on the individual level like a simple tripping on your toe. Others are so huge that they claim thousands of lives and create significant impact on the society.

This is a list of the world’s most tragic accidents in history. Bear in mind that the items here are not sorted by death toll. Ultimately, these devastating moments in history affected the world and changed how we see and deal with our lives. Note that this list does not include events that were caused by deliberate violence or natural disasters.


Bihar, India, 1981
268 dead, 300 missing

June 6, 1981 is an unforgettable day for the people of Bihar, India. On this day, a passenger train carrying more than 500 passengers and travelling between Saharsa and Mansi derailed and plunged into the Bagmati river. It is considered India’s most tragic railway disaster. The real cause of the accident is still uncertain but many believe that it was one of the three: a cyclone, flash flooding and, believe it or not, brake failure while avoiding to hit a water buffalo. Yes, a kalabaw.

Many people believe that the worst train tragedy in recorded history is the “Queen of the Sea? disaster in Sri Lanka. But since it was caused by a tsunami, which is a force of nature, it is intentionally excluded from the list.


Canary Islands, Spain, 1977
583 dead

The Tenerife collision is the worst plane accident since plane was invented. March 27, 1977: two Boeing 747 airliners (Pan American World Airways Flight 1763 and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 4805) collided at Los Rodeos on the island of Tenerife, killing 583 people. KLM 4805 was taking off on the airport’s only runway when it crashed into Pan Am 1736, taxiing on the same runway. A massive explosion happened, followed by a huge ball of fire. The sound was heard throughout the island.


Philippine Sea, 1945
579+ dead

A few weeks before the end of World War II, the USS Indianapolis, a US Navy Portland-class heavy cruiser carrying 1196 men, was en route to Leyte in the Philippines from Guam. They never made it to the Philippines. The cruiser sank completely 12 minutes after a torpedo from a Japanese submarine hit it.

You might be thinking that this should not be included in this list because war is definitely an act of deliberate violence; however, it is not the sinking per se. Only around 300 people were trapped on it. A total of 896 men were able to leave the ship. In fact, they were able to call for rescue a number of times but it was denied because it was thought to be sent by a Japanese submarine setting them up for a trap.

The poor sailors stayed floating in the middle of the ocean for more than four days. Without any food and water, some were tempted to drink seawater which sentenced them to dehydration. Many perished because of this.

What was more terrifying was that it was shark-infested. For four days, they were floating in the open sea and every three to four hours, sharks would attack and prey on them. For four days, they were waiting to be rescued while silk sharks, blue sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks in groups of 120 to 150 would have a feast. Of the 896 who survived the sinking of the ship, only 317 were alive when they were finally rescued.

Although sharks played a significant part in this incredibly traumatic tragedy, it wouldn’t have happened had they not ignored the distress calls. It still boils down to human error, making it one of the most tragic accidents in Naval history.


Ramree, Burma, 1945
Casualties: disputed

If a shark attack doesn’t give you the creeps, this one will. Another unbelievably disastrous event in the military history is the Battle of Ramree Island in Burma.

On February 19, 1945, while retreating from the Royal Navy, around 900 soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army crossed through miles of mangrove swamps. According to Bruce Wright, one of the Royal Navy members who trapped the Japanese, of this number, only 20 were alive and captured.

What happened to the rest of the troop?

It is believed that they were attacked and eaten by saltwater crocodiles inhabiting the area. This claim is disputed but the Guinness Book of World Records lists this event under the title “Greatest Disaster Suffered from Animals? nonetheless.


Moscow, Russia, 1896
Casualties: 1389

On May 18, 1896, a mass panic occurred on Khodynka Field in Moscow, Russia during the festivities following the coronation of Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor.

Four days after Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia, a banquet was to be held for the people. There had been rumors that the tsar would be giving away rich coronation gifts. On the eve of the celebration, people started to gather on the field in anticipation.

Suddenly, a rumor that there would not be enough presents for everybody spread. A stampede took place. Several thousands of people were caught in a catastrophic crush leaving 1,389 trampled to death and about 1,300 injured.

You might be very curious about the supposedly expensive gifts. It turned out that the gifts were a bread roll, gingerbread, a piece of sausage and a mug.

5. THE 1990 HAJJ

Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1990
1426 dead

Another remarkable stampede is the 1990 Hajj tragedy in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The annual sacred Muslim Hajj is attended by millions of pilgrims. Sometimes, even when authorities think they have done everything to avoid stampedes and other disasters, things still go wrong and deadly. Stampedes in Mecca are not unusual. Hundreds of pilgrims are killed in a mad rush of the crowd especially during the Stoning of the Devil ceremony. But the most tragic documented peace-time stampede in history occurred at the 1990 Hajj when more than 1400 pilgrims died in a pedestrian tunnel.


Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1917
Casualties: 1950

On December 6, 1917, the people of Halifax in Canada were shocked to hear the sound of an explosion. Others did not have enough time to be shocked because they were blown away literally by the blast. The city was devastated when Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship which was loaded with wartime explosives, accidentally collided with the Norwegian ship Imo in “The Narrows? section of the city harbor.

The initial blast left almost 2000 people dead, usually by fires, debris and collapsed buildings. Later deaths pushed the number up to over 2000 while more than 9000 people were injured.

This is considered the largest man-made, non-nuclear explosion even up to now. Approximately two square kilometers of the city was obliterated and wiped out. The neighboring communities of Dartmouth and Richmond were also affected. The blast also caused a tsunami in the harbor. The tsunami caused a pressure wave of air snapping trees, demolishing buildings and grounded vessels and blowing fragments kilometres from the explosion site.


Tablas Strait, Philippines, 1987
4375 dead

image courtesy of BBC

On December 20, 1987, the Philippines was the center of the world’s attention once again. Tragedy struck when MV Doña Paz, an overcrowded passenger ferry, sank after crashing into the oil tanker Vector loaded with 8,800 barrels of petroleum. The ferry was on its way to Manila from Catbalogan, Samar. Within minutes, the ferry sank giving the victims no time to launch the lifeboats.

Initially, official reports claimed that 1,565 people were killed but others insisted that the death toll is more than 4,000. The licenced maximum capacity of the ferry is 1,518 but there were 1,568 people listed on the manifest. A huge fraction of the passengers were unmanifested. It is the most tragic documented peace-time maritime accident in history.


Chernobyl, Soviet Union (now in modern Ukraine), 1986
Casualties: over 4000 and counting

The worst nuclear power plant accident in the world occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union, on April 26, 1986. The place had four reactors, each could produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

On the eve of the accident, a team of engineers started an experiment on one of the reactors. Having little knowledge of reactor physics, the experiment went from a bit awry to downright deadly. Errors were made worse by more errors, which eventually resulted in a nuclear meltdown and in an explosion the next day. The blast blew off the reactor’s heavy steel lid.

Contrary to what was initially suggested, the explosion wasn’t nuclear but chemical, ensuing fire and releasing over 50 tins of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. In the early days of the crisis, 56 people died and dozens more suffered severely from radiation burns. But the casualties grew higher and higher as people were exposed to radiation.

Eventually, approximately 4,000 Soviet citizens lost their lives to cancer and other illnesses induced by radiation. The health of millions of people was also adversely affected.


Bhopal, India, 1984
Casualties: over 20,000

The list starts with a train accident in India. This South Asian country also caps off the list with the worst accident in history. In the morning of December 3, 1984, the people of Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh woke up to an abominable day. Others did not wake up at all. A holding tank of a Union Carbide chemical plant leaked out 40 tonnes of toxic gas (methyl isocyanate), rolled on the ground through several surrounding residential streets. The residents who breathed in the poisonous gas in their sleep died instantly. Others were able to run away.

About 500,000 people were exposed to the fatal gas. Of this number, 2,500 to 5,000 died immediately after the inhalation. To this date, approximately 20,000 are believed to have died from complications caused by the leak. It is said that on the average, one person dies from the effects every day.

Today, over 120,000 are still suffering from cancer, blindness, serious birth defects, breathing difficulties and other health complications caused by the accident. This certainly secures India a place on the map of tragic accidents because even up to this day, the Bhopal disaster is considered the world’s most tragic industrial accident in history.

Indeed, accidents happen. This is why utmost care is very, very important. We should all be careful with what we do because we have a responsibility to ourselves and to the people around us. Yes, people make mistakes. However, mistakes as tragic as the ten accidents mentioned above are, in fact, avoidable.

image courtesy of,,,,,,,,,


  1. gosh…that was pretty horrible–the bhopal accident…hays…

    teka, bakit nakabaon sa lupa yung bata?

    i remember that mv dona paz…hays. very tragic indeed

    • Apparently meron. haha.

      Siguro kung yung lawak nung area affected, Chernobyl was the greater accident. But Bhopal’s population was just so big perhaps kaya mas mataas ang casualties, making it, i think, the most massive mistake in history.

    • Yup, i loooooooooooooooove lists. Ganyan parati tumatakbo sa utak ko. Whenever I’m bored, I always wonder what the greatest, biggest, best, worst, most, least whatever. hehe

      And yah, syempre hindi papadaig ang Pinas. LOL.

  2. the bhopal and chernobyl tragedies were even cited in the harrisons (internal medicine textbook) in the chapter on biochemical terrorism. 🙁

  3. Pingback:
  4. This might sound morbid but Chernobyl is my favorite. I like the Hindenburg tragedy too. Not a lot of people died but it changed the course of aviation. If not for that incident, a lot of people thinks that dirigibles would still be used as transportation.

  5. this is not a good site for reference and one other thing…………CAL is soooo cute!!!!!today doing his copacabana act was amazing!!1

  6. Bhopal. Some 25 years after the gas leak, 390 tonnes of toxic chemicals abandoned at the UCIL plant continue to leak and pollute the groundwater in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents who depend on it.

    “We have had enough for the past 21 years and nothing has come our way. So, we have gathered here in front of the Chemical Fertilizer Ministry, which has a full section dedicated to Bhopal Gas victims, to do something for us.”

    For more cheerful news see

  7. A very well organized collection there….

    you wouldnt believe on the latest updates of the Bhopal Gas tragedy…

    google em up… ull b severly dissappointed…!!!

  8. Too many people. The survival problems facing humans at the moment are results of activities as old as civilization itself. They are from the human activities of combustion of energy, fishing, grazing and farming. Why these should suddenly emerge as grave threats to the environment is no particular mystery. It is the pressure of a human population of 6 billion (and soon to be 9 billion) that shows no signs of slowing its growth. The weakest, most self-absorbed, self-indulgent and decadent of us are in denial about this question.

    Increasing population is driving a whole series of train wrecks.

    But as Andy Jackson said so eloquently “One person with courage makes a majority.” Let’s all be that one person.

    Seneca Adler Brown

    Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped.
    Sam Levenson, (1911-1980)

  9. I think #1 should have been hitlers not being aborted. His mother wanted an abortion but her doctor talked her out of it… Lol!!!

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    • Hi Lexia! I used to be a contributor to Crunkish. I wrote that article for them but they allowed me to repost it on this blog. Hope this clears the air. 🙂

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