Travel, on the whole, is a lot safer now than it ever has been. Whilst thankfully rare, when transportation accidents do occur, they’re often high on the scale of impact. Be it maritime disasters, plane crashes, road-traffic accidents, or in this case, train wrecks, those that we make the news are obviously major events.
When a train is at full speed, any impact can be catastrophic, and in the case of the top five worst accidents/disasters in history, a horrendous number of people lost their lives, with many more injured. There are countless disasters reported all over the world, but the top five shown below are based on number of fatalities and injuries. In the case of the top rail accident, the Sri Lankan tsunami rail disaster, the sheer number of deaths is unprecedented and nothing but tragic.
1. Sri Lanka tsunami rail disaster
The tragic 2004 tsunami wiped out lives due to the Indian Ocean earthquake in many forms. The Queen of the Sea Line passenger train disaster caused the death of over 1700 people, all travelling between Colombo and Galle. The train was packed, as it often was, and the tsunami wave crashed into the train – resulting in mass loss of life.
2. Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne derailment
The 1917 derailment of a packed train full of French soldiers on leave is the worst rail disaster in French history, with 800-1000 lives lost. The train was extremely overloaded, and despite initially refusing, the driver was forced by threats of military discipline to continue. The train was unable to break adequately and the subsequent derailment caused a crash and fire.
3. Ciurea rail disaster
This Romanian rail disaster, also of 1917, caused a massive 600-1000 deaths, again due to derailment and fire. As the overloaded train approached Ciurea and descended down a steep bank, the carriages full of wounded Russian soldiers and refugees was unable to brake, due to damaged brake pipes from the sheer number of people on the train standing on them. The train derailed and then caught fire.
4. Bihar train crash
Back in 1981, a train carrying around 800 passengers derailed as it crossed a bridge and plunged into the River Bagmati. Around 500-800 people perished. It is unclear what caused the derailment but many theories abound, including weather, a flash flood or a braking failure.
5. Guadalajara train wreck
Over 600 people died in 1915 when an overcrowded train left Colima, Mexico, heading to the Pacific Coast. During a long and steep descent, the driver lost control and the train derailed, plunging into a deep valley, with hundreds of people found dead as a result.
Such huge disasters due to transportation failures often cause mass casualties, and in the case of the above accidents and disasters, loss of life by the hundreds. In the case of the Sri Lankan tsunami rail disaster, there were almost 2000 lives lost. Most rail disasters are caused by derailment and subsequent fires, and at the speeds involved, it’s often too late to avoid disaster by the time the situation arises.