List of Disasters Reviewed

Incidents referred to in articles on psychological and behavioural responses to disaster including CBRN.

A number of specific incidents are referred to throughout our articles on disaster resilience and disaster psychology. They are listed below, in alphabetical order, along with the date on which they occurred and a brief description. Those incidents that involve CBRN substances or materials are identified with the appropriate initial (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) to the right of the date. Terrorist incidents are also indicated.


This article is an extract from my 82-page report "Psychological and Behavioural Responses to CBRN Disasters: Implications for emergency response, community, and business continuity" Get the full report...


  • Amsterdam plane crash, 04.10.92 RAn El Al Boeing 747 crashed killing 43 people. There was depleted uranium (DU) in the plane’s counterweights. After this was made public in 1993 a discussion started on the potential burning of DU and the risks for citizens and rescue workers.
  • Buffalo Creek, 26.02.72A devastating flood in southern West Virginia’s Buffalo Creek hollow. Strip mining and heavy rain produced a raging flood which left 118 dead and over 4,000 people homeless.
  • Chernobyl, 25.04.86 NA reaction in the reactor of a nuclear power plant went out of control, blowing off the reactor’s steel and concrete lid. More than 30 people were killed immediately, and as a result of the high radiation levels in the surrounding area 135,000 were evacuated.
  • Enschede explosion, Netherlands, 13.05.00Following a fire in a fireworks warehouse, a series of explosions occurred, causing five deaths. A total of 947 people injured in the explosion were treated by the medical care system.
  • Flixborough, 01.06.74 CAn explosion at the chemical plant of Nypro (UK) Limited at Flixborough, near Scunthorpe left the plant devastated, with twenty-eight lives lost and the villages surrounding the plant severely damaged.
  • Goiania, Brazil, Sept. 87 RA canister from an abandoned radiotherapy machine was dismantled by scavengers and five days later a junkyard worker prised open the canister to reveal radioactive cesium-137. In the following days scores of citizens were exposed to the radiation.
  • Herald of Free Enterprise, 06.03.87The car ferry, Herald of Free Enterprise, capsized in the approaches to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge en route to Dover. At least 150 passengers and 38 crew members lost their lives, mostly from hypothermia in the freezing water.
  • Hurricane Andrew, 24.08.92Hurricane Andrew caused 15 deaths directly, 25 deaths indirectly, made more than 250,000 people homeless and damaged or destroyed 82,000 businesses in the area of South Florida and parts of Miami.
  • Hurricane Opal, 04.10.95Hurricane Opal originated in Mexico and travelled onto Florida. Mud slides and flash flooding killed 50 on the Yucatan Peninsula, and nine people were killed in the United States, most from falling trees.
  • Kobe Earthquake, 17.01.95The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, caused 5100 deaths and was particularly devastating because it had a shallow focus.
  • Leominster tanker crash, 05.09.97 CA tanker carrying 21,000 litres of formaldehyde crashed on the A49, rolled down the hillside and came to rest by a small hamlet. No-one was injured, but several residents and emergency personnel were treated for respiratory problems.
  • Livingston Toxic Spill, 28.09.82 CToxic chemicals were split following a train derailment in Louisiana, USA. 2,700 residents were evacuated and upon return many found dead pets and agricultural animals, as well as discoloured buildings and explosion damage.
  • Love Canal, 03.10.76 CAn abandoned canal was used to dump chemical waste in the 1940/50s and then covered in impermeable clay. In 1970 waste began oozing into basements of several houses built on the site.
  • Manchester Bomb, 15.06.96 TA 3000lb IRA bomb exploded in central Manchester at peak shopping time. Warnings given meant that the area was evacuated and no one was killed. Approximately 200 people were injured.
  • Mexico City Earthquake, 19/21.09.85An earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale devastated much of Mexico City and caused thousands of deaths.
  • Oklahoma City bomb, 19.05.95 T168 people were killed when a bomb inside a rental truck exploded outside a Federal building in downtown Oklahoma.
  • Piper Alpha, 06.07.88167 men died when a fire broke out on an off-shore gas platform in the North Sea. 62 men were pulled from the sea.
  • SARS, 2003-04 BSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Within months the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.
  • Surat plague, 1994The spread of bubonic plague in the city of Surat resulted in the deaths of 57 people. It is estimated that at its peak, over 300,000 people deserted the city and hundreds of people reported to hospitals.
  • Three Mile Island (TMI), 28.03.79 NA sequence of events, including equipment malfunctions, design related problems and worker errors, led to the partial meltdown of the reactor core, but only very small off-site radiation levels. No-one was killed or injured at the plant.
  • Tokyo Sarin Attack, 20.03.95 B, TIn the morning rush hour a group of terrorists placed containers of the nerve gas Sarin in five carriages on three of Tokyo’s ten underground railway lines. Many were exposed, 12 people died, but many more suffer long-term effects.
  • Toulouse incident, 21.11.01 CTwo production halls of a fertiliser factory literally flew into the air following a chemical explosion. Many were injured, mostly from flying glass.
  • Weybourne chemical incident, 06.05.91 CFour tank containers of chemicals fell overboard from a container ship during bad weather. Recovery was not deemed necessary and the containers washed ashore in a couple of days and their contents were disposed of.
  • World Trade Centre ’01, (9-11 and Flight 93), 11.09.01 TThe attacks involved the hijacking of four commercial airliners and flying them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. One plane crashed into a field. At least 2,900 people were killed, many more injured and 25 buildings were damaged.
  • World Trade Centre ’93, 26.02.93 TA car bomb exploded in the underground car park below Tower One of the World Trade Centre. Six people were killed and at least 1000 others injured.

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