The construction industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise but it is also fraught with danger with potential disaster waiting at every turn. All it takes is one mistake on the part of a single person and the lives of hundreds of people could be at risk. Large scale construction could potentially endanger the lives of the general public. One basic error on a bridge for example could be fatal for thousands of motorists. Construction companies walk a fine line between chaos and order. Below are some famous construction disasters that cost millions of dollars and tragically, hundreds of lives.
Chicago Crib Disaster
20 January 1909 is a day that lives in infamy for relatives of the estimated 70 workers who died while building a water intake tunnel in Chicago. A fire broke out on a water crib that was only being used on a temporary basis. The fire burned the dormitory which housed the workers as it was made of wood. There were explosives in the tunnel and these also blew up. Approximately 53 bodies were found but others remain missing. What is known is that almost 30 of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Some men jumped or fell into the lake and drowned with some bodies never recovered.
Willow Island Disaster
On 27 April, 1978, a cooling tower in Willow Island, West Virginia collapsed and killed an estimated 51 people. The construction workers were in the process of building a power plant powered by coal. One water tower had already been built and the second one was well underway. On the day of the tragedy, the second tower had reached a height of over 50 metres. Suddenly, a cable that was hoisting the concrete slackened. The crane that held it fell towards the tower and the concrete which had been used the previous day started to collapse. The concrete began to unwrap, causing metal scaffolding and other debris to fall into the middle. All 51 men who were on the scaffold at the time plummeted to their doom. The construction company was found guilty of not securing the scaffold and were given a pitiful $85,500 fine.
The Quebec Bridge Collapse
This bridge, which was built over the St. Lawrence river collapsed not once, but twice in the space of a decade. Construction began on the bridge in 1903 and after four years, it was nearly completed. However, the south and central sections of the bridge collapsed in 1907, killing 75 of the 86 people who were working on the bridge. The structure collapsed in less than 15 seconds. On 11 September, 1916, the central span fell into the river as it was being raised. It took the lives of 13 workers in the process.
These are a trio of the worst construction disasters in the last 100 or so years. Although construction companies follow stricter safety procedures these days, there is always the risk of some disaster occurring and when it does, the workers are always the first in the firing line. Construction builds amazing things but there is always a price to pay, sometimes it is a human one.