Most Expensive Catastrophes
Contributed by Chris Holmes
First Published: March 2009
# 11. Titanic - $150 Million
The sinking of the Titanic is possibly the most famous
accident in world history.
But it barely makes our list of top 10 most expensive.
On April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage and
was considered to be the most luxurious ocean liner ever
built. Over 1,500 people lost their lives when the ship ran
into an iceberg and sunk in frigid waters.
The ship cost $7 million to build ($150 million in today's
10. Tanker Truck vs Bridge -
On August 26, 2004, a car collided with a tanker truck
containing 32,000 liters of fuel on the Wiehltal Bridge in
The tanker crashed through the guardrail and fell 90 feet
off the A4 Autobahn resulting in a huge explosion and fire
which destroyed the load-bearing ability of the bridge.
Temporary repairs cost $40 million and the cost to replace
the bridge is estimated at $318 Million.
# 9. MetroLink Crash -
On September 12, 2008, in what was one of the worst train
crashes in California history, 25 people were killed when a
Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a Union
Pacific freight train in Los Angeles.
It is thought that the Metrolink train may have run through
a red signal while the conductor was busy text messaging.
Wrongful death lawsuits are expected to cause $500 million
in losses for Metrolink.
# 8. B-2 Bomber Crash -
Here we have our first billion dollar accident (and we're
only #7 on the list).
This B-2 stealth bomber crashed shortly after taking off
from an air base in Guam on February 23, 2008.
Investigators blamed distorted data in the flight control
computers caused by moisture in the system. This resulted in
the aircraft making a sudden nose-up move which made the B-2
stall and crash.
This was 1 of only 21 ever built and was the most expensive
aviation accident in history. Both pilots were able to eject
# 7. Exxon Valdez -
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was not a large one in relation
to the world' s biggest oil spills, but it was a costly one
due to the remote location of Prince William Sound
(accessible only by helicopter and boat).
On March 24, 1989, 10.8 million gallons of oil was spilled
when the ship' s master, Joseph Hazelwood, left the controls
and the ship crashed into a Reef.
The cleanup cost Exxon $2.5 billion.
# 6. Piper Alpha Oil Rig -
This was the world's worst
off-shore oil disaster. At one time, this
oil rig was the world' s single largest oil producer,
spewing out 317,000 barrels of oil per day.
was a North Sea oil production platform operated by
On July 6, 1988, as part of routine maintenance, technicians
removed and checked safety valves which were essential in
preventing dangerous build-up of liquid gas. There were 100
identical safety valves which were checked. Unfortunately,
the technicians made a mistake and forgot to replace one of
them. At 10 PM that same night, a technician pressed a start
button for the liquid gas pumps and the world' s most
expensive oil rig accident was set in motion.
Within 2 hours, the 300 foot platform was engulfed in
flames. It eventually collapsed, killing 167 workers and
resulting in $3.4 Billion in damages.
# 5. Challenger Explosion -
The Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds after
takeoff due on January 28, 1986 due to a faulty O-ring.
The O-ring failed to seal one of
the joints, allowing pressurized gas to reach the outside.
This in turn caused the external tank to dump its payload of
liquid hydrogen causing a massive explosion.
The seven crew members
were probably killed by impact of their crew compartment
with the ocean surface, although they might have suffered
lethal injuries from the forces of the disintegration.
This disaster was especially traumatic in that it was
televised, thereby shocking millions of spectators who
screamed in terror at this disaster brought directly to
their living rooms.
The cost of replacing the Space Shuttle was $2 billion in
1986 ($4.5 billion in today' s dollars).
The cost of investigation, problem correction, and
replacement of lost equipment cost $450 million from
1986-1987 ($1 Billion in today' s dollars).
# 4. Prestige Oil Spill -
On November 13, 2002, the Prestige oil tanker was carrying
77,000 tons of heavy fuel oil when one of its twelve tanks
burst during a storm off Galicia , Spain.
Fearing that the ship would sink, the captain called for
help from Spanish rescue workers, expecting them to take the
ship into harbor. However, pressure from local authorities
forced the captain to steer the ship away from the coast.
The captain tried to get help from the French and Portuguese
authorities, but they too ordered the ship away from their
shores. The storm eventually took its toll on the ship
resulting in the tanker splitting in half and releasing 20
million gallons oil into the sea.
The spill polluted thousands of kilometers of coastline and
more than one thousand beaches on the Spanish and French
coast, as well as causing great damage to the local fishing
industry. The spill was the
largest environmental disaster in Spain's history.
According to a report by the Pontevedra Economist Board, the
total cleanup cost $12 billion.
# 3. Space Shuttle Columbia -
The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first space worthy
shuttle in NASA ' s orbital fleet. It was destroyed during
re-entry over Texas on February 1, 2003 after a hole was
punctured in one of the wings during launch 16 days earlier.
The original cost of the shuttle was $2 Billion in 1978.
That comes out to $6.3 Billion in today' s dollars. $500
million was spent on the investigation, making it the
costliest aircraft accident investigation in history. The
search and recovery of debris cost $300 million.
In the end, the total cost of the accident (not including
replacement of the shuttle) came out to $13 Billion
according to the American Institute of Aeronautics and
# 2. Chernobyl -
On April 26, 1986, the world witnessed the costliest
accident in history to date.
The Chernobyl disaster has been called the biggest
socio-economic catastrophe in peacetime history. 50% of the
area of Ukraine is in some way contaminated. Over 200,000
people had to be evacuated and resettled while 1.7 million
people were directly affected by the disaster.
It is impossible to measure the true
extent of the damage. The radioactivity was not
contained by any kind of containment vessel (unlike most
Western plants, Soviet reactors often did not have them).
Radioactive particles were
carried by wind across international borders.
The resulting effects are unknown.
The death toll attributed to Chernobyl, including people who
died from cancer years later, is estimated at 125,000. The
total costs including cleanup, resettlement, and
compensation to victims has been estimated to be roughly
$200 Billion. The cost of a new steel shelter for the
Chernobyl nuclear plant will cost $2 billion alone.
The accident was officially attributed to power plant
operators who violated plant procedures and were ignorant of
the safety requirements needed.
# 1. 2008 Presidential Election-
$800 Billion in the first two months
meltdown to follow?