Man-Made Disasters

by | Apr 16, 2022 | Disaster Management

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Understanding Man-Made Disasters

Man-made disasters include human purpose, neglect, or error involving a failure of a man-made system. Human-caused disasters are very dangerous natural disasters brought on by people. Man-made disasters include chemical spills, hazardous material spills, explosions, chemical or biological assaults, nuclear blasts, train accidents, aeroplane crashes, and groundwater pollution.

These calamities are also known as human-caused disasters or disasters of anthropogenic origin. A man-made catastrophe is an emergency with recognizable human acts as the primary direct cause. Man-made catastrophes interrupt daily life, affect individuals, have an influence on social institutions, and cause economic harm.

Natural disasters can also result in man-made catastrophes, such as earthquakes, which can leave a huge number of people homeless and without a source of income, resulting in social and political implications. Man-made disasters, like all others, heighten an area’s and people’s vulnerability.

Human-caused catastrophes can occur for a variety of reasons. They might be caused by indiscriminate industrialization, overcrowding, growing consumerism, the use of dangerous substances or procedures, or simply numerous forms of mishaps. Man-made disasters are more likely to occur as a result of professional and public negligence, as well as ignorance.

Unintentional or unintended behaviour, such as inadequate maintenance, low-quality work, or a human mistake, might potentially result in a man-made disaster. Sabotage, mischief, revenge, rioting, mob wrath, or hostile attack, on the other hand, might emerge from purposeful, deliberate, and intentional behaviour.


When a source of ignition, such as an open flame, cigarettes or bidi, electric spark, or any other source of ignition, comes into contact with combustible material, fire results. For millennia, man has relied on it for everything from cooking and heating to providing a primary source of illumination. Thousands of people die each year as a result of house fires or wildfires, with an estimated $8.6 billion in direct property loss each year.

Man-made disaster Fires

Building Fire

Fire catastrophes pose a major danger to the built environment’s operation, particularly in highly populated metropolitan regions with strained municipal infrastructure systems. Despite this, fire safety concerns are still mostly addressed at the level of individual parts or buildings, ignoring the overall threat to system performance. Gas cylinders, overheated appliances, short circuits, and careless smoking are all typical causes of a house fire or even a blast. When a fire breaks out, there isn’t much time to flee. In seconds, a fire may grow, perhaps tripling in size. A fire may burn out of control in less than 30 seconds, filling the area with heat and poisonous, dense smoke. Even modest concentrations of these poisonous components can cause disorientation and cause some people to pass out in a fire.

Coal Fire 

An outcrop or coal mines seam is burned in a coal-seam fire. Because of the restricted availability of ambient oxygen, most coal-seam fires, particularly subterranean coal-seam fires, smoulder. Coal-seam fires have occurred on Earth for many million years. Underground coal-seam fires, like Burning Mountain in Australia, are the most persistent flames on Earth, lasting thousands of years due to thermal insulation and the lack of rain/snow extinguishment by the crust. Self-heating of minimal oxidation, lightning, wildfires and even arson can start coal-seam fires. Coal-seam fires have been quietly modifying the lithosphere and affecting the atmosphere for millennia, but due to massive mining activity, this pace has accelerated and expanded in recent years.

Forest Fire

Forest fire is very uncontrolled and occurs in foliage taller than 1.8 meters (6 feet). They endanger not just the forest’s richness but also the entire fauna and flora regime, wreaking havoc on biodiversity, ecology, and the ecosystem of an area. The woodlands become covered with dried senescent leaves and twigs during the summer when there has been no rain for months, and they may explode into flames sparked by the tiniest spark. During the several previous summers, the Himalayan forests, notably the Garhwal Himalayas, have been burning regularly, resulting in a massive loss of vegetative cover in that region. Forest fires disrupt natural balances and damage biodiversity by diminishing faunal and floral variety.

Oil Fire

Oil well fires are the result of an oil or gas well-catching fire and burning. Accidental or natural phenomena such as lightning can all cause them. They can occur on a small level, such as when an oil field spill catches fire, or on a large one, such as when ignited high-pressure wells produce geyser-like jets of flames. A high-pressure breakout during drilling operations is a common cause of an oil well fire. In 1991, withdrawing from Kuwait due to the advances of US-led coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War. Iraqi military forces set fire to a reported 605 to 732 oil wells and an unspecified number of oil-filled low-lying regions (such as oil lakes and fire trenches). They did that as part of a scorched earth policy.

Nuclear Disaster

The International Atomic Energy Agency defines a nuclear or radiation accident as “an occurrence that has resulted in substantial implications for people, the environment, or the facility.” Individual deaths, massive amounts of radiation released into the environment, and reactor core melt are only a few examples. An accident that occurs in any nuclear fuel cycle facility, including a nuclear reactor or in a facility that uses radioactive sources, results in a large-scale leak of radiation into the environment.

Some of the ways nuclear disasters happen are:

  • A ‘criticality’ accident occurs when an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction occurs accidentally in a nuclear fuel cycle plant, resulting in neutron and gamma radiation bursts (as had happened at Tokaimura, Japan).
  • A mishap occurred while transporting radioactive material.
  • Terrorists use radioactive material as a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD) to spread radioactive material across the environment.
  • A large-scale nuclear disaster caused by a nuclear bomb assault (as occurred in Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki) resulted in mass fatalities and the devastation of significant regions and properties.

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine experienced the world’s worst nuclear disaster (then part of the Soviet Union). It is the first nuclear disaster in the history of commercial nuclear power that has resulted in radiation-related deaths. A failed safety test resulted in two explosions, a week-long fire, and the discharge of a huge amount of radioactive material due to several circumstances, including reactor design difficulties and weak safety culture.

Due to the explosions, two employees died, as did 28 emergency responders and plant workers who contracted acute radiation syndrome (ARS; often known as “radiation sickness”). There were also over 5000 thyroid cases of cancer (among which 15 had proven deadly so far), most of which may have been averted if contaminated consumables, such as milk, had not been consumed.

Biological Disaster

Biological disasters are natural occurrences that result in widespread sickness, disability, or death among humans, animals, and plants as a result of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or poisons.

This might result in death, injury, disease, or other health consequences, as well as property damage, lost livelihoods & services, economic and social upheaval, and environmental degradation. Epidemic disease outbreaks, plant or animal contagion, bug or other animal plagues, and infestations are all examples of biological disasters.

Biological Disasters can take the following forms:

  • Epidemic: Epidemics afflict a disproportionately high number of people in a population, community, or area at the same time. Cholera, Plague, and Japanese Encephalitis (JE)/Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) are examples of epidemics.
  • Pandemic: A pandemic is an outbreak of existing, new, or remerging illnesses and pestilences that spreads across a broad territory, such as a continent, or even a globe, such as Influenza H1N1 (Swine Flu), Covid-19.

In 1966, Charles Baldwin created the biohazard sign. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention divides biohazards into four degrees of biosafety:

BSL1: Various cell cultures, Bacillus subtilis, canine hepatitis, and non-infectious microorganisms are all classified as BSL-1. Only facial protection and gloves are provided.

BSL2: Hepatitis A, B, C, mumps, measles, HIV, and other bacteria and viruses that cause only minor sickness in people or are difficult to catch by aerosol in a lab environment are classified as BSL-2. Biological safety cabinets and autoclaves are used for sterilization.

BSL3: Bacteria and viruses that cause severe to deadly illnesses in humans are classified as BSL-3. West Nile virus, anthrax, and MERS coronavirus are just a few examples. Protection – Strict safety precautions, such as the usage of respirators, are in place to prevent the spread of illness through the air.

BSL4: BSL-4: Viruses that are potentially lethal to humans, such as Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa fever. Use a positive-pressure personnel suit with a separate air supply for protection.

Chemical Disaster

A chemical accident occurs when one or more chemical danger compounds are released unintentionally, posing a risk to human health and the environment. Fires, explosions, leaks, or releases of poisonous or hazardous chemicals are examples of occurrences that might cause disease, injury, or impairment to humans.

Chemical disaster

Chemicals, which are at the heart of contemporary industrial processes, have become a major source of worry for disaster management in the government, business sector, and general public. Chemical catastrophes may be distressing for people and have resulted in deaths as well as harm to the environment and property. The industrial facility, its employees and workers, hazardous chemicals vehicles, people of nearby towns, adjacent buildings, occupants, and the surrounding community are the factors most at danger from a chemical accident.

Chemical accidents can happen whenever dangerous compounds are stored, transported, or utilized, but industrial mishaps involving significant chemical materials and production facilities are the most serious. The 1984 Bhopal gas catastrophe in India, in which more than 3,000 people died after a highly poisonous vapour, methyl isocyanate, was discharged from a Union Carbide Pesticides facility, was the deadliest chemical accident in history.

Primary prevention, also known as intrinsic safety, refers to efforts to avoid accidents that vary from enhanced safety measures to fundamental changes in chemical usage and production.

Road Accidents

Road accidents are undoubtedly the most common and, ultimately, the most damaging. The causes for this are the severely congested highways and the drivers’ relative freedom of movement. Accidents involving heavy goods vehicles (especially coaches and lorries with trailers) are too common. These are happening despite calls for responsible driving, adherence to loading regulations and the highway code. Drivers should adjust their speed, which affects stopping distances, traffic, and weather conditions (rain, ice, fog, etc.).

Around 1.3 million people annually lose or are at stake in losing their lives due to a traffic accident. Non-fatal injuries affect between 20 and 50 million more individuals, with many of them resulting in disability as a result of their injury.

Individuals and their families, and nations as a whole suffer significant economic losses as a result of road traffic injuries. The expense of treatment and lost productivity for individuals killed or crippled by their injuries, as well as family members who must take time from work or school to care for the injured, contribute to these losses. The majority of countries lose 3% of their GDP due to road accidents.

The Safe System approach to road safety attempts to guarantee that all road users are safe. People’s sensitivity to significant injuries in road traffic collisions is taken into consideration in this approach, which also understands that the system should be built to be tolerant of human mistakes. Safe roads and roadsides, safe speeds, safe cars, and safe road users are the foundations of this strategy, all of which must be handled to prevent fatal collisions and lessen catastrophic injuries.

Also Read: Disaster Management


  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.


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