I am sure it’s happened to most of us. There you are sat at the computer when you absent mindedly reach out for the half cup of coffee without taking your eyes off the screen and over the cup goes. It always amazes me how disruptive such a few milliliters of liquid can be.
Minor spills like these involving water, oil and chemicals happen in their tens of thousands every day and provided you have absorbent wipes or suitable spill control products to hand damage limitation is usually fast and effective. Some spills both natural and accidental are on a far larger scale and compared with a spilt cup of coffee are mind boggling in their scale. Here is a rundown of my top five spills in recorded times. You may have others you feel deserve a place in the countdown.
1. Worst deliberate Oil Spill
In January 1991, Iraqi forces released an estimated 240 million gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf in an attempt to disrupt an expected amphibious landing by the U.S. Marines. The resulting oil slick ravaged the Gulf’s marine ecosystem, killed thousands of seabirds and endangering other wildlife. To date, it remains the worst disaster of its kind.
2. Worst accidental chemical spill
The worst industrial chemical spill occurred suddenly in the early morning of December 3, 1984, at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India a chemical leak released a cloud of lethal methyl isocyanate into the air over the sleeping city. Some two thousand people died immediately and at least another eight thousand died later with many thousands still seriously affected to this day.
The term accidental is relative as human error and carelessness played a part in the disaster.
3. Worst Accidental Oil Spill
The much publicised Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico makes my top five not least because in addition to the devastation caused to the marine environment and coastal communities 11 men lost their lives and 17 more were injured. The oil spill estimated at over 200 million gallons eclipses the previous record held by the oil well Ixtoc 1 which also exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on June 3, 1979, spewing 140 million gallons of oil into the open sea.
4. Worst natural land spill
A volcanic fissure connected to the Laki volcano in Iceland began erupting in June 1783 and continued for 8 months. It produced the largest lava flow in historic times when a fissure 16 miles long sent a flow of fast-moving lava more than 40 miles. Over 3 cubic miles of lava poured out covering an area of 220square miles. More devasting still were the clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulphur dioxide released that killed half of Iceland’s livestock population causing a famine that killed a quarter of the island’s human population. The atmospheric pollution caused crop failures across Europe is attributed to contributing to the deaths of over six million people globally.
5. Worst natural atmospheric spill
The biggest volcanic eruption in recorded human history occurred when Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa erupted in 1815. The sound of the initial eruption was heard over 1000 miles away and the volume of the ejected gas and debris cloud was put at 400 million tons or 38 cubic miles. Under the cloud of gas the volcano created, the earth cooled and 1816 became known as “The Year Without Summer” because of the low temperatures, which killed crops and led to mass starvation.