The magnificent visual treats created by fireworks never cease to amaze us. The more, the better! Fireworks are like the Greek mythical creature Sirens- beautiful, yet deadly. We enjoy fireworks and praise its bright side and ignore its dark side. Here are 10 Deadly Fireworks Disasters that remind us about the age old saying, “NEVER PLAY WITH FIRE”.
10. Benton fireworks disaster (1983)
On May 1983, an unlicensed factory producing illegal fireworks exploded on a farm located on the outskirts of Benton, Tennesse. The incident took place in an old metal dairy barn on Webb’s Bait Farm. The farm, owned by Dan Lee Webb primarily grew worms and other fishing baits and sold fishing equipment. The massive explosion was caused by the detonation of a cache of M-80 and M-100 explosives, gunpowder, and other chemicals in the barn, instantly killing all the eleven workers on duty and leveling the barn to the ground.
Neighbors who witnessed the incident said that the factory exploded in a series of thunderous blast that lasted for eight or nine minutes. The blast resulted in a huge mushroom cloud over the mountains of southeast Tennesse. The force of explosion was so strong that it produced a shock wave which leveled trees as far as 100 yards away.
Mr. Webb along with David Park and Howard Emmett Bramblett decided to manufacture illegal M-80 and M-100 in the barn in December 1982. And most of the employers were Webb’s and Park’s family members. Neither the neighbors nor the authorities were aware of the illegal fireworks. All of the victims were factory workers. Out of the eleven known dead, six of them were men and five were women including Mr.Webb’s mother, brother and uncle. Later, the authorities recovered unexploded fireworks worth of $20,000 including 3/4th inch firecrackers, M-100s and six 55 gallon steel drums of chemical explosives from the site.
On April 19, 1984, Dan Lee pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years prison and fined $10,000 in the federal case for manufacturing explosives without license and involuntary manslaughter.
9. Sivakasi Factory Explosion (2012)
Sivakashi, a town in Virudhunagar district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is known as India’s firework capital. Home to many match and fireworks industries, it is infamous for the frequent accidents.
Om Sakthi Factory is one of the largest factories in Sivakasi. On 5th September 2012, a huge explosion took place at noon. Villagers and workers from nearby factories rushed to the site. An unexpected second explosion happened at around 1pm, throwing debris around and injuring them. Out of the 38 people killed and 33 injured, most of them are believed to be the people rushed to the site. It took around five hours for the fire fighters to put off the fire.
According to the then superintendent of police, the Factory’s licence was suspended due to violation of safety rules.
8. Istanbul firework explosion (2008)
An explosion at an unlicensed firework factory in the western Davutpasa district in Istanbul caused a part of five-storied building to collapse.
The incident took place on January 31, 2008. A series of explosions brought down top two floors of the five-story building. About 20 people lost their lives and a hundred more were injured. The force of the blast is so massive that even destroyed columns of the nearby buildings.
7. Truck Explosion China (2013)
The Lunar New Year is one of the important holidays in China and fireworks form an integral part of the celebration.
On February 1 2013, an 80m (262ft) section of a road on G30 express highway in the Henan province was destroyed when a truck loaded with fireworks exploded. The incident took place just a few days before Chinese New Year. Almost 26 people were dead.
6. Mexican fire explosion (2013)
In March 2013, a truck containing fireworks exploded during a religious procession in a rural village in Tlaxcala, Mexico. The blast took off when one of the fireworks malfunctioned and landed on to a truck, igniting the fireworks stored inside. At least thirteen people were killed and 154 were injured.
5. Bright Sparklers Fireworks Disaster (1991)
The Bright Sparklers Sdn Bhd factory was a firework manufacturing company located in Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh, a village in Selangor, Malaysia. On May 7 1991 the factory burst into flames, destroying lives and livelihood alike.
During an experiment in the factory’s canteen, the explosives chemicals sparked off fires which quickly spread on to the nearby pile of large firecrackers known as bazookas, which inturn started a series of explosions.
The blast ripped apart nearby factories and buildings, claiming 26 lives and injuring 103 people. The estimated damage caused in residential property alone was more than RM 1 million.
Following the incident, a royal commission set up by the cabinet to investigate the disaster found the factory owners and management did not comply to the safety standards.
4. Seest firework disaster (2004)
This incident occurred on 3rd November 2004, in a firework depot. The fire was initiated when one of the employees unloading the containers, accidentally dropped a carton of rockets. The fire spread rapidly to other containers as well, resulting in three consecutive explosions.
The blast resulted in the destruction of most of the company’s building in the industrial zone and many of the houses in the neighborhood were either damaged or made unfit for living.
Many people were treated for hearing problems, while others suffered irritation due to the inhalation of smoke. According to reports, about three of the firefighters had died in the incident while 13 survived with minor injuries.
The blast was so strong that the firefighting operations lasted until the morning of 7 November.
3. Kollam Paravoor Temple fireworks explosion (2016)
On April 10, 2016, the firework celebration at a Temple soon turned into a massacre. At the conclusion of the Meena Bharani festival in Paravoor Temple in Kollam, India, a massive explosion occurred when the firework display went out of control.
The temple authorities conducted the competitive pyrotechnics display against the Kollam district administration’s refusal to display fireworks after safety concerns and complaints were raised by the residents.
The sparks sent off from a firecracker that fell to the ground, ignited the fireworks stored in the storehouse and set off the explosion. The blast brought down an entire building and caused severe damage to several other buildings in the vicinity.
The impact of the explosion was said to be felt over 1km. The rescue workers have recovered many bodies charred beyond recognition. Over 110 people lost their lives and 400 were injured.
2. Mesa Redonda Fire (2001)
The Mesa Redonda shopping district in downtown Lima consists of narrow streets, colonial era buildings and stores and galleries. Since the products are reasonably priced and accessible to people with limited resources, Mesa Redonda attracts large crowds. During the month of December, the congested streets become the hub for firework sales.
In December 2001, a fire broke out when a shopkeeper demonstrated a firecracker to a customer, which fell on to the roofs of buildings where tons of fireworks were stored. It soon ignited the fireworks and in a swift reaction, the fire spread to nearby carts and buildings. It was reported that at least 4000 people were present in the area at the time of the disaster.
The incident claimed at least 290 lives and injuring another 200. About 320 went missing and four city blocks were destroyed.
1. Enschede fireworks disaster (2000)
Perhaps the most devastating of all, the Enschede firework explosion demolished an entire residential area.
The explosion took place in the S.E.Fireworks factory located in Mekkelholt. It is the only factory in Netherlands located in a residential area. On May 2000, a fire in the factory depot detonated over 100 tons of explosives, killing eighteen people and injuring another 946. Almost 400 houses were reduced to their foundations, another 1000 houses damaged. The impact of the blast was so huge that it was heard in the neighboring towns as well.
10 Deadly Fireworks Disasters
- Enschede fireworks disaster (2000)
- Mesa Redonda Fire (2001)
- Kollam Paravoor Temple fireworks explosion (2016)
- Seest firework disaster (2004)
- Bright Sparklers fireworks disaster (1991)
- Mexican fire explosion (2013)
- Truck explosion China (2013)
- Istanbul firework explosion (2008)
- Sivakashi Factory explosion (2012)
- Benton fireworks disaster (1983)
Author – Mithra