Four eco-catastrophes that still shock as retold

By Pham Van   June 30, 2016 | 05:14 pm PT
The dawn of modernity has born witness to numerous disasters, caused by both the advance of technology and the inherent errors that render no system perfect. Below are four cases that will echo infinitely, reminding people of the price tag attached to human attempt to conquer nature.

Minamata Bay Disaster

Tomokos hand taken by W. Eugene Smith in 1971

Tomoko's hand taken by W. Eugene Smith in 1971

The site: Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan

The time: 1956 - 1968

The happening: As of 2001, 2,265 people in Japan were confirmed to have contracted Minamata disease, 1,784 of whom died and another 10,000 received compensation.

The cause: methylmercury accumulated in seafood found in Minamata area.

The culprit: Chisso Corporation (top suspect at the emergence of the disease but denied until ruled by court)

The solution: Total compensation of up to $560 million

BP Oil Spill


The Discoverer Enterprise and the Q4000 work around the clock burning undesirable gases from the still uncapped Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. 26 June 2010. Photo by Spc. Casey Ware, CC BY 2.0

The site: Offshore the Gulf of Mexico

The time: April 20, 2010

The happening: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, causing the oil well to spew an estimated 4.9 million barrels that cover an area of up to 176,100 square kilometers.

The cause: Pressurized gas during operation exploded, blasting open the oil well.

The culprit: BP

The solution: 48,000 people and 6,500 vessels together with 2,500 miles of boom were deployed to clean the oil. The clean-up cost $14 billion.

White River fish kill


The site: West Fork of White River, Indiana, U.S.

The time: 1999

The happening: mass fish deaths (187 tons) stretching 80 kilometers

The cause: 38,000 liters of Chemical HMP 2000

The culprit: Guide Corp, automotive parts maker

The solution: $14.2 million in fines, penalties, legal expenses, and river restoration

Exxon Valdez oil spill


The site: Prince William Sound, Alaska, U.S.

The time: March 24, 1989

The happening: Estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled to clear water, covering an area of 28,000 square kilometers of ocean.

The cause: Grounding of a oil tanker

The culprit: Exxon Valdez oil tanker

The solution: Cleanup alone cost in the region of $2.5 billion. Total costs were estimated to be $7 billion.

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