Contest #679 Hint

Another disaster that wasn’t fully reported until about 20 years after it happened. A show about disasters listed this one as worse than several others that you’d likely know, like Chernobyl.

Contest #678 – Site of Kyshtym Disaster, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia

On September 29, 1957, something happened at this site. The most common theory is the cooling system for a tank of liquid nuclear waste failed, the heat caused a chemical reaction similar to an ammonium-nitrate/fuel-oil type explosion. Regardless of what actually caused it, a plume of radioactive debris spread, contaminating a space over 52,000 square km.

Because of the secrecy with which this event was shrouded, and the fact that the cancers and other long-term diseases associated with the contamination are hard to limit to just radioactive exposure, it is impossible to fully count the number of casualties of this disaster. Direct cases of radiation poisoning from this event have been published at 66. Some estimates of the increase of deaths in the contaminated area point to a casualty count of around 8500.

Those who drew back the iron curtain to reveal this spot before the hint were:

  • hhgygy
  • Kiribatian Jacob
  • Paul Voestermans
  • Martin de Bock
  • Garfield
  • Eloy Cano
  • Phil Ower
  • Lighthouse
  • Jesus Rodriguez
  • Wista
  • Luís Filipe Miguel

and after the hint

  • Nancy Barbato Sinatra

Contest #677 – Site of Rana Plaza collapse, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Rana Plaza was a multipurpose building in the heart of the largest city in one of the most densely populated countries on earth. There were shops and a bank on the lower levels of the 8-story building, a series of clothing factories that employed about 5000 people in shifts, and a few high-end apartments on the 2 highest floors.

Originally, the building had been 4 stories, with shops on the first floor and offices on the other 3. The remaining 4 floors were added to house the factories, and had been done so without a permit or any engineering studies. The infrastructure on the original floors were not sufficiently reinforced to handle the additional weight of all those people and machines, not to mention all that additional concrete and steel.

On April 23, 2013, a local news team showed cracks in the building. The building was evacuated, but the managers of the clothing factories told their employees that they were to return to work the next day or lose an entire month’s pay.

The next day, shortly after the factories filled with workers, there was a power outage (which was a fairly common occurrence) and the diesel generators on the roof were started. These generators were old and not well balanced, which caused significant vibrations in the building. Within minutes of the generators starting, the building collapsed.

Of the 3000+ workers in the building, 1,134 perished. Hardly anyone else escaped injury, most of them quite serious.

There are a couple of short documentaries about the aftermath of the collapse here and here. I’m not going to embed them because, frankly, they are VERY hard to watch, but they have a pretty important message about the cost of fashion.

Those who found the site before the hint:

  • Phil Ower
  • Martin de Bock
  • Gillian B
  • Eloy Cano
  • Garfield
  • Paul Voestermans
  • Lighthouse
  • hhgygy
  • Glenmorren
  • Wista
  • Kiribatian Jacob

And after the hint:

  • Robin Giles
  • Chris Nason

Contest #676 – Site of 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami train wreck, Peraliya, Sri Lanka

The Indian Ocean tsunami that struck on 26 December 2004 was among the worst single-instance mass-casualty events in recorded history. Nearly 230,000 people in 14 countries were killed. The fact that this train wreck, which is the largest single rail disaster in world history by death toll, is but a minuscule portion of that larger death count is jarring.

Before the #50 Matara Express departed the Ambalangoda station, railway officials had been trying desperately to contact the station to get them to halt the train. Unfortunately, everyone at the station was helping process the train, and no one was available to take the call until after it left. When it got to Peraliya, the first waves overtook the tracks and stopped the train. Subsequent waves threw the train around like a leaf in the water, crushing those who tried to shelter behind it. The flooding of the cars drowned nearly all of the passengers.

No one really knows how many died in this tragedy. At least 900 have been identified, but it is thought the total death count may be as high as 1700 or more.

Those who located the site, all before the hint, were:

  • hhgygy
  • Phil Ower
  • Gillian B
  • Paul Voestermans
  • Martin de Bock
  • Garfield
  • Graham Hedley
  • Eloy Cano
  • Lighthouse
  • Kiribatian Jacob
  • Glenmorren