10 of the Worlds Deadliest Dam Failures

Being within close proximity to a massive dam signifies that you’ve put your faith in the engineers that designed the dam. Since if they made mistakes in their calculations, it could lead to catastrophic. If a dam breaks and the resulting water surge could sweep away everything before it, damaging the property, and even killing people as well as livestock. This list shows that when errors are made during building a dam, result are often horrendous. One final piece of advice Most dams aren’t a failure!

10. Banqiao Dam (China, 1975)


A powerful typhoon struck Henan, a western Chinese Province of Henan in the month of August, 1975. with devastating results. The dam was massive, which was three hundred and eighty-eight feet (118 meters) high in the province that spanned across the Ru River. The dam was completed in 1952. Banqiao dam was built with an interior made of densely packed clay and an layer of sand. Its function was to supply water to farms in the Huai River Basin. The reservoir that was created by the dam could hold a volume of approximately 158 billion gallons (600 billion liters).

The dam was designed to withstand any flood that is expected to happen once in a thousand years. However this “once” occurred in the form of a severe typhoon within five years of the time that the dam’s completion. The devastating weather event was so extreme that it lasted for 55 inches (140 centimeters) of rain fell in just three days in an area that usually would have the equivalent of just 32 inches (81 centimeters) during the entire year. This was too excessive to the Banqiao dam and it failed to release a torrent of water of 33ft (10 metres) high and seven miles (11.3 kilometers) across. Hardly any official figures on casualties are to find however, according to some estimates up to 230,000 were killed. [1]

9. Machchhu Dam II (Gujarat, India, 1979)

It was August 1979 and torrential monsoon showers were pouring down on in the Indian region of Gujarat. It’s not unusual for the typical annual downpour that covers the entire subcontinent. However, this year, the weather was quite different. The rain was near an apocalypse, and the effects of this were evident to observe in the Macchu River, which was running deep and swiftly.

In reality the river was overflowing with rain that Machchhu Dam II was forced to open flood gates to safeguard the structure’s integrity in the event of a record rain. However, the water release wasn’t enough to stop floodwaters flowing across the earth banks that bordered the dam. It was enough to destroy the dam structure. A few people within that path devastating flood that had just been released had already escaped into higher levels, saving their own lives. Others had not. The exact casualty numbers simply do not exist. However, one estimate suggests that 25,000 people died. [2]

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8. South Fork Dam (Pennsylvania, 1889)

The structure was constructed of rock and earth The South Fork dam was about 8 miles (13 kilometers) to the east of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The initial 918-foot ( 280 meters long) structure was in 72-feet (22 meters) tall and was completed in 1852. The dam’s version partly failed less than 10 years after it had been built.

A man by the name Benjamin Ruff bought the remains of the dam as well as adjoining land in 1872, with plans to fix the dam and create an extravagant resort. The result was The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club that was patronized by wealthy industrialists of the time like Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie. However, tragedy occurred in 1889, when a severe storm flooded the region with torrential rain sufficient to cause the dam to fall on the final day of May 1889. Actually, the changes made to the dam’s layout by Ruff was at the very least to blame for the collapse which caused the release of 20 million tons of water, and caused 209 people dying. [3]

7. Vajont Dam (Italy, 1959)

In the time that Vajont dam located in the Italian Alps was built in 1959 it was one of the largest dams in the world. It appears that the structure was constructed well, as it was not breached but the devastating flooding caused destruction to homes and property in 1963. The cause of the disaster was actually a huge land slide, and the fact that the reservoir of the dam was filled to its limit of design.

The dam was already in a dangerous situation when a huge slide on the nearby Monte Toc sent 9,200 cubic feet (260 million cubic meters) of rock crashing into the artificial lake. This was enough to pour huge amounts of water on the dam’s top. The torrent of water was so intense that it caused a wall of air that ripped off the clothing of the victims of the disaster. The most reliable estimation puts the number victims killed at about 2500. [4]

6. The Ruhr Valley Dams (Germany, 1943)

The collapse one of three Ruhr Valley dams in Germany and the subsequent loss of lives was a different reason as compared to the other tragic events that we have listed. The dam’s collapse was not an accident, it was a deliberate decision. In the night of the month of May, 1943, a team consisting of 19 Lancaster bombers departed from England Their mission was to take down the dams with specially-designed “bouncing” explosive.

The original idea was to eliminate the three dams, but only two dams were breached: that of the Eder as well as the Mohne. However, the Sorpe Dam survived the attack. However, that wasn’t enough to create chaos in the air. It was 133 British airmen in the mission 53 were killed. People who were caught in the floods suffered far more. German missing and dead numbered 545. However, not just Germans died–749 Dutch, Ukrainian, French and Belgian prisoners and workers were murdered or not found. It’s less than 1,300 deaths in all. [5]

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5. Puentes Dam (Spain, 1802)

In the year 1802, the Puentes dam located in the southeast Murcia area of Spain was the longest dam in the world at being 940 feet (286.5 meters) from end to the end. It was just over seven miles (11 kilometers) from the city of Lorca the dam was at 165 feet (50 meters) tall. Jeronimo Ortiz delara was the architect of the dam, and beginning in 1785, the building process required six years. Perhaps it was a sign to the fact that the dam was constructed to replace one that had failed in 1648.

The dam’s construction got off to a rocky beginning, with the reservoir remaining nearly dry after more than a decade of extreme dryness in Murcia. The skies finally began to open in the month of March 1802. At the time the end of April came around the dam appeared to be in danger of overflowing. This was the moment it broke to release a 40-foot (12-meter-high) flood of water that was headed straight towards Lorca. The deluge destroyed over 800 houses, as well as many farms and industrial buildings. The loss of life was severe; 608 people died during the flooding. [6]

4. St. Francis Dam (California, 1928)

Built in 1926 The 70 feet-long (21.3-meter-long) St. Francis Dam was situated approximately forty miles (64 kilometers) in northwestern Los Angeles. Its goal was to hold water for the city’s aqueduct system. The concrete structure was the highest point of 200 feet (62.5 meters). It was the Los Angeles Bureau of Waterworks & Supply was the one responsible for the construction with principal engineer William Mulholland taking the lead in the construction.

Mulholland was an engineer who learned by himself however, he was proficient in building numerous dams. However, these were embankment dams, not concrete dams. This was crucial in the same way as the aspect that during design work the dam’s height was raised in 20-feet (6 metres). Unfortunately, the impact of this change on the design of the dam wasn’t thought of. It was true that two years after the completion date at the end of 1928, the dam collapsed completely. The dam’s failure resulted in the deaths of around 350 Californians. [77

3. Malpasset Dam (France, 1959)

It is located in The French Riviera near Cannes, near Cannes, Malpasset dam was a part of across the Reyran River. The construction began in 1952, then when it was finished about two years after, it stood at just 218 feet (66.5 meters) tall and more than 22 feet (6.7 meters) thick. One spillway was constructed near the center of 736 feet (224-meter) long. It wasn’t until the end of December 1957 that the dam’s reservoir eventually filled to capacity. Then it began to fail.

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Prior to the incident, there were days of heavy rain and gales, which likely caused the disaster which claimed four21 lives. There was a death count much higher than it should have been due to the fact that flooding access roads prevented the arrival of rescue personnel. A subsequent investigation revealed there was evidence that Malpasset Dam included grave design defects, which were exacerbated by the lack of comprehensive geophysical surveying. [8]

2. Brumadinho Dam (Brazil, 2019)

The Brumadinho dam in Brazil was not constructed to hold water for drinking or irrigation. Its goal was to contain the toxic waste from mining operations that extracted iron ore. It was mostly filled with toxic mud, in essence million of tonnes of toxic Sludge. When it broke in January of 2019 it released a torrent of toxic waste that engulfed villages and farms nearby and caused more than 270 deaths.

Brazilian mining corporation Vale was the operator of the mine in 2021. it was ordered by the court to pay an amount of $7 billion in compensation which could be increased. It’s a significant amount of money, however this was the most horrific industrial disaster Brazil has seen.

The flood devastated the town that was Corrego do Feijao. Alarm systems were installed in order to alert the villagers of imminent dangers however, on the day, it was not working. Sirley Goncalves is a villager who survived however lost her husband, who employed at the mine, stated to that to the BBC, “Vale destroyed our lives. They had to have been aware that the dam was going to break. They don’t really worry about their employees; they are concerned about their cash flow.” [99

1. Dale Dyke Reservoir (England, 1864)

Dale Dyke Reservoir Dale Dyke Reservoir was located approximately eight miles (12.8 kilometers) from Sheffield, the northwestern English city Sheffield. The dam, which was 100 feet high, was of the type of embankment made of earth, and it extended to 500 feet (152 meters) in the back, containing the reservoir which was one mile (1.6 kilometers) long and a quarter mile (0.4 km) wide. When the dam was nearing completion in the month of March, 1864 severe storms struck the area which caused the dam to be smashed.

The structure’s collapse caused a flood of 600 millions gallon (2,954 millions of Liters) of water that flooded the Loxley Valley. The flood swept through a few towns before reaching Sheffield which is where the flood reached a depth of about 6 inches (1.8 metres). Pubs, houses factories, as well as other structures were destroyed and at most 240 people died. [10]

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