Accidents do happen in life. There have been innumerable of them in the history of our planet. Accidents can be natural or man-made. Now, man-made accidents are not intentional. They do happen. There can be heavy loss to life and property in an accident. Now, one cannot estimate the actual loss caused due to the death of people but you can always estimate the loss to the property.
We shall look at the top 10 most expensive accidents in the history of this planet. You will see that the amount involved in some of them could be much more than the GDP of several countries. Consider this fact. The Chernobyl disaster cost $200 billion as a rough estimate. You have only 48 countries in the world that have a GDP in excess of $200 billion. This should give you the enormity of the accident.
Let us look at the top 10 most expensive accidents in history along with the estimated loss because of each one of them. We are talking about the accidents and not the acts of war. Otherwise, the 2001 Twin Tower crashes and the atomic bomb explosion at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have found a mention.
Checkout the top 10 Most Expensive Accidents In History
10. The Sinking of the Titanic – 1912 – $150 million
The accident ranking at No. 10 on this list has been the subject matter of a hugely successful film by the same name. The night of 14th April 1912 should surely go down in the history as one of the most unfortunate of nights. That was the night when a huge ship by the name of Titanic crashed headlong into a couple of huge ice bergs in the North Atlantic Ocean. The heart-rending part of it was that the ship was on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Being the first voyage, the ship had a lot of influential people on board. Unfortunately, the ship could not complete its maiden voyage as it crashed against an iceberg and drowned almost immediately resulting in the death of more than 1500 people. The cost of building the ship was around $7 million at that time. If you take the inflation into consideration, the loss could well be over $150 million today.
9. The Explosion on the Wiehltal Bridge – 2004 – $358 million
You must have heard of accidents happening on bridges. You would also have seen vehicles toppling over. However, they do not harm the bridge in any way. This was not the case on August 26, 2004 at the Wiehltal Bridge on the A4 Autobahn connecting Cologne and Olpe in Germany. A car crashed into an oil tanker carrying 32,000 liters of fuel. The bridge’s rails were designed to stop vehicles up to 13 tons from falling over. The weight of this tanker was far above this capacity. Hence, the tanker fell down and exploded damaging the entire bridge. The replacement cost of the bridge is estimated at around $358 million making it the 9th most expensive accident in the history of this planet.
8. The Metro collision at Chatsworth – 2008 – $500 million
The train signaling system is one of the most sophisticated ones in the world. However, if the drivers of the trains choose to ignore these signals, they are inviting danger. One such misdemeanor on September 12, 2008 resulted in the head-on collision of a Union Pacific freight train and a passenger train at Chatsworth, California. It transpired later that the Metrolink passenger train jumped a red signal and crossed over to a single line section before colliding with the freight train. About 25 people lost their lives in this accident. The damage to the tracks, trains, and the compensation cost totaled to around $500 million, making it the 8th most expensive accident in history.
7. The Crashing of the B-2 Stealth Bomber – 2008 – $1.4 billion
You have seen a ship wreck, a bridge collapse, and a train collision. At No. 7 we have a plane crash. This is no ordinary plane but a B-2 Stealth bomber of the US Air Force. This accident happened on 23 February 2008 at the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The B-2 Stealth Bomber named ‘The Spirit of Kansas’ crashed within minutes of takeoff due to a mechanical failure. Luckily there was no loss to any lives because the two pilots managed to eject out of the plane at the right moment. The plane was completely damaged in the bargain costing the US Air Force Administration $1.4 billion.
6. The Oil Spill Exxon Valdez – 1989 – $2.5 billion
At No. 6 we have the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill off the coast of Alaska on 24 March 1989. A huge oil tanker, Exxon Valdez, bound for Long Beach, California, collided with Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef spilling 10.8 US gallons of crude oil into the sea causing one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of humankind. This area is home to hundreds of salmons, seals, and sea otters. The loss because of the death is immeasurable. However, the loss because of the sinking of the ship and the spillage of oil was measured to be around $2.5 billion. The cause of the accident was undoubtedly human negligence because the captain was reportedly drunk. The third mate was dead tired after long hours at the helm. He ignored the RAYCAS radar leading to the collision.
5. Explosion at Piper Alpha Oil Rig – 1988 – $3.4 billion
You can explain ships colliding with reefs. How can you explain the explosion of an entire oil rig? This is what happened on 06 July 1988 at the Piper Alpha Oil Rig off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. One of the technical engineers forgot to replace the safety valve leading to a tremendous explosion that killed 167 workers. The tragic fact is that 30 bodies were never recovered. The total loss was to the tune of $3.4 billion making it the worst offshore oil rig disaster in history and the 5th most expensive accident in the history of this planet.
4. Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion – 1986 – $5.5 billion
The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion ranks No. 4 on this list of the most expensive accidents in history. This accident happened on 28 January 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) broke apart just 73 seconds into its flight killing all the seven crew members on board. The accident happened because of the malfunctioning of an O-ring that was not fit to fly under unusually cold conditions. The accident happened over the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida. The damage was estimated at $5.5 billion.
3. The Prestige Oil Spill – 2002 – $12 billion
At No.3, we have the Prestige Oil Spill that should not classify as an accident but manslaughter. This accident happened on 13 November 2002 when one of the tanks carrying fuel burst abroad the Prestige. This tanker had twelve tanks and was carrying 77,000 metric tons of cargo. The cause of the burst was undoubtedly a storm off the coast of Galicia in Spain. Naturally, the captain of the Greek tanker sought help from Spain to park the ship in its harbor. Fearing damage to their environment, the local authorities disallowed the permission and forced the ship to divert to France. The French authorities in turn diverted it towards Portugal. Portugal, on its part, sent its navy to intercept the tanker and prevent it from entering Portuguese waters. This drama happened for six days and finally on 19 November 2002, the ship sank into the ocean spilling 20 million US gallons of oil into the sea. Even after sinking, the ship leaked oil to the tune of 125 tons a day damaging the environment considerably. The loss was estimated at $12 billion making it the 3rd most expensive accident in history.
2. The Explosion of the SS Columbia – 2003 – $13 billion
You had a space shuttle explosion at No. 4 in this list. This time, at No. 2, we have the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia on 01 February 2003. The Challenger explosion took place immediately after separation whereas this accident happened as the space shuttle entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The tragic fact is that the seven member crew lost their lives when just 16 minutes away from a safe landing. The crew members comprised of highly qualified scientists of which Kalpana Chawla belonged to India. The loss to human life is immeasurable but the total loss to the equipment amounted to $13 billion making it the second most expensive accident in history.
1. The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster – 1986 – $200 billion and still counting
Science has made terrific strides in nuclear technology. However, it has not learned the art of escaping from a nuclear disaster. The heaviest nuclear disaster is the one that happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant on 26 April 1986. Nuclear reactor accidents can be catastrophic. This nuclear plant was located at Pripyat in Ukraine. At that time, Ukraine was still part of the USSR. An underground power failure was the cause of the accident that led to the explosion and release of harmful nuclear gases for about 9 days continuously. There were only 31 human deaths in the accident because the administration acted swiftly in relocating the people of the nearby towns to prevent damage die to radiation. The total loss has been estimated to approximately $200 billion. The figure is still on the increase. No one knows where it will end up finally.
Consider the enormity of these accidents as you note that only 48 countries have their annual GDP more than $200 billion. The country Ukraine where the disaster took place has a GDP of $93 billion today. This will give you an idea about the extent of loss caused by this nuclear disaster.