4 Previous chemical disasters
Tianjin, china (2015)
A series of explosions that started at a warehouse for toxic chemicals in the northern Chinese port city led to 173 deaths, most of them firefighters and police, and left 800 injured.
The blasts ripped through an industrial area, destroying thousands of new cars, shipping containers and buildings and gouging out a gigantic crater. Economic losses were estimated at $1.1bn. Mismanagement and illegal storage of hazardous materials were blamed, with a court later sentencing 49 people to prison.
Toulouse, France (2001)
An explosion at the AZF fertiliser factory 10 days after the 9/11 attacks left around 30 people dead and caused more than 2,000 casualties. The blast had the force of a 3.4-magnitude earthquake.
It was later discovered to have been the result of contaminating the ammonium nitrate with another compound used for cleaning swimming pool water. In 2017, a court found a subsidiary of oil company Total partly responsible and convicted the plant’s former manager.
Texas City, USA (1947)
A fire aboard the docked ship SS Grandcamp detonated its cargo of ammonium nitrate, sending fireballs into the sky and triggering a 15-foot tidal wave.
One of the largest ever non-nuclear explosions, it was the deadliest industrial accident in US history, killing at least 581 people and injuring more than 5,000.
A chain reaction of fires destroyed nearby chemical plants and oil storage facilities, with the scenes likened to the bombing of European cities in the second world war that had just ended.
Oppau, Germany (1921)
The disaster happened when hundreds of tons of a fertiliser exploded. Some 561 lives were lost, about 2,000 people hurt and most of the town’s buildings decimated.
The blast was reportedly heard 350km away in Munich. The incident occurred during the routine use of small dynamite charges to loosen a hardened mixture of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate in a silo.
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