Most Catastrophic Construction Projects in History

Feb 24, 2021 | 0 comments

It’s truly a wonder how miniture beings like us could build structures thousands times our size. Seeing the skyscrapers and towering buildings with the most unique architecture will surely leave all on-lookers breathless. However, what we don’t think much too often are the lives it took when it was being built. Sometimes the most iconic structures are the one who took lives the most. Thus, resulting in catastrophic construction incidents.

Humanity is always hungry for innovation and change. We always want to be in line with the times. People often want something new to see, something that’s not been there before. However, doing something new and challenging also creates risk for those who are creating them. As skilled as they are, or as precautious as they may seem, a construction worker’s job is very dangerous in itself.

When building something that is “a first” it can sometimes be daunting. Creating something that’s going to be iconic or famous, expect that it needs a lot of complicated work. According to an article in Interesting Engineering, they numbered down Some of the Deadliest Construction Projects in History.  Most of them were big projects, about to make an impeccable impact on the world. However we cannot negate the fact that building these iconic structures are dangerous for those who are working on it.  Without further ado, here are 4 of the most catastrophic construction projects in history.

The Suez Canal

One of the most catastrophic constructions in history is probably the making of the Suez Canal. So many people died that there was no news of even an estimated number of deaths. The Suez Canal’s construction stretched up to 10 years beginning its construction on Sep 25, 1959 and officially opening on Nov 17, 1869. Known to be one of the most famous canals in the world, The Suez Canal stretches from Port Said in the North down to the Suez in the south. In the span of 10 years, about 140,000+ workers died of lung diseases, dysentery, hepatitis, smallpox, tuberculosis, and phosphorous exposure. 

The “Death Railway”

The Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the “Death Railway” took away thousands of lives during its construction. According to an article in Culture Trip, there were  29% of the British, 31% of the Australian, 23% of the American and 19% of all the Dutch POWs (prisoners of war) who lost their lives while constructing the infamous death railway. You would think there were survivors, however, as reported in the article, all of the workers who worked on the bridge did not survive which makes it absolutely horrendous. Till this day, the infamous railway in Thailand is still in use but, the dark past it holds and the workers who died constructing it are lost in history. 

The Panama Canal

As construction workers, you do not only need strength but a strong immune system. Working outside, makes you exposed to a lot of dirt and natural elements that might affect your health. This is actually one of the hazards to watch out for when you’re working in construction. 

The making of the Panama Canal is one of its examples. Construction workers did not necessarily lose their lives because of a collapse or an error with footing. But it was the natural elements that brought them to the ground. The making of the Panama Canal started in the year 1880. This was one of the years that illnesses were at its peak and medicine couldn’t keep up. Exposed construction workers were not safe and an estimated number of 22,000 people died of malaria and yellow fever. 

Hawks Nest Tunnel 

Another railroad tragedy in history that left an abundant mark in the world. Known to be one of the profound construction catastrophes, the Hawks Nest Tunnel located in West Virginia left thousands of workers dead after drilling into a silica infused tunnel. Unemployed men were recruited for this project and majority of them were African-American workers. 

Another case caused by harmful environmental elements. The effect of being exposed to silica can cause blindness and damage of the lungs. Despite the difficulties, the construction of the project pushed through. According to an article by New River Gorge, the work conditions were the perfect setting for a catastrophic construction project. The workers were warrioring throughout the day by doing labor in a confined space with poor ventilation. This results in workers coming home sick, and after months of working, some of them already acquiring silicosis. 

 Thank you to Interesting Engineering for providing insightful research on the topic! Want some more interesting reads? Improving Teamwork in Construction might interest you! You’re in luck, we have it in store. Just click on the red link above!