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Disasters & Tragedy

Natural or man-made, disasters are destructive. They can wreak havoc and cause fear. Find out what horrible disasters occurred within the 20th century.
  1. Challenger Tragedy (7)
  2. The Holocaust

1906 San Francisco Earthquake
At 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906, a large earthquake hit San Francisco. Even greater than the damage caused directly by the earthquake, the city was ravaged by fire for four days. Learn more about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

On April 26th, 1986, reactor four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, releasing massive amounts of radiation into the environment. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster killed 31 people shortly after the explosion and thousands more have, or are expected to, died from the long-term effects of radiation.

Deadliest Earthquakes of the 20th Century
A list of the top ten deadliest earthquakes of the 20th century.

The First Fatal Airplane Crash
Just five years after the Wrights' first flight, Orville Wright was in the first fatal airplane crash - the passenger was killed.

Hindenburg Disaster
The suddenness of the disaster was shocking. At 7:25 p.m. on May 6, 1937, while the Hindenburg was attempting to land at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, a flame appeared on the outer cover of the rear of the Hindenburg. Within 34 seconds, the entire airship was consumed by fire.

Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Though James Earl Ray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99 years in prison, some believe that Ray might not be the assassin.

Mt. St. Helens
On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted, leaving in its wake death and destruction.

Sinking of the Lusitania
On May 7, 1915, the British passenger ship, the Lusitania, was sunk by a German U-boat. The high death toll shocked the world and the loss of American citizens swayed public opinion in the United States in favor of joining World War I.

Tangshan: The Deadliest Earthquake
At 3:42 a.m. on July 28, 1976, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the sleeping city of Tangshan, in northeastern China. The very large earthquake obliterated the city of Tangshan and killed over 240,000 people - making it the deadliest earthquake of century.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
The fire at the Triangle Waist Company factory in New York City on March 25, 1911 killed 146 workers. The large number of deaths exposed the dangerous conditions in high-rise factories and prompted the creation of new building, fire, and safety codes around the United States.

Typhoid Mary Mallon
Typhoid Mary had no idea that she was infected with the disease yet her work as a cook infected many. Find out all about Typhoid Mary and why authorities had a difficult time capturing Mary for her crimes.

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