Learn all about the biggest and worst engineering disasters in history! See exactly what happened and what caused these disasters to happen! Could the buildings that YOU go into every day collapse?!
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Here are 9 of the biggest engineering disasters!
9. Sampoong Department Store, Seoul, South Korea
On June 29, 1995, in the space of 20 seconds, the Sampoong Department Store in Seoul, South Korea fell to the ground, grilling 502 people and injuring 937 others. Criminal negligence, blatant disregard for ethical engineering practices, and shoddy construction led to the largest peacetime disaster in South Korean history. The problems can be traced almost exclusively to the future chairman of the building, Lee Joon. Under his insistence, the building was changed from being an office building to a department store halfway through its construction.
To install the escalators, several key support columns had to be eliminated. Later, Joon had a fifth floor added to the building. Despite serious warnings, Joon simply hired his own company to do work others refused to do. Not only was the building not meant to support a fifth story, but his extra level was made with a thick, extra heavy, heated floor.
Air conditioning units that were added to the roof quadrupled the load the structure was designed to sustain. To make matters worse, the building was constructed with substandard concrete and had only half the 16 steel reinforcing bars it needed. Also, the concrete columns were thinner than necessary and were reduced even more when fire shields were installed around the escalators.
In April 1995, extensive cracks were spotted, yet nothing was done. These fractures grew exponentially on the day of the disaster, but because management didn’t want to lose the day’s revenue, they refused to evacuate the building. Top executives, however, left as a precaution. Seven minutes before the collapse, the building began to pop and crack, and employees sounded the alarm, but it was too late to avert disaster, and a total of 1,500 people were trapped inside.
8. Hotel New World, Singapore
On March 15, 1986, all six stories of Hotel New World collapsed in less than 60 seconds. The building housed a hotel, a bank and a nightclub, all of which disintegrated into piles of rock and twisted metal, burying 50 people inside. It was the worst disaster Singapore had experienced since World War II, and it shocked the nation.
Singapore’s newly formed Civil Defense Force launched rescue and recovery efforts immediately, and they continued for seven days. Engineers and other experts from around the world were called in to assist the delicate rescue operation.
At first, they merely removed beams and other remains from the top and sides of the ruins, but not many bodies were recovered. On the second day, assisted by foreign experts who were in Singapore to build a mass transit system, rescuers began to tunnel into the rubble. Sound-detection equipment was used to help locate the 17 lucky survivors.
After intensive research, investigators discovered a terrible error in the original design of the building. The structural engineer had completely left out the building’s “dead load,” in other words, the weight of the building itself, during the design process. As a result, it wasn’t strong enough to hold itself up. Tragically, Hotel New World was doomed from the beginning.
7. Three High-Rise Office Buildings, Rio, Brazil
On January 26, 2012, a 20-story building in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil spontaneously collapsed. The gigantic high-rise crashed into another ten-story building as well as a third smaller building, reducing all three structures to one huge pile of rubble. The impact sent an enormous wave of dust through the streets of Cinelandia square, grilling at least 17 people.