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5 disasters deleted from your history books


The investigation following the disaster focused on bridge specifications, metal quality and craftsmanship. No one directed their attention to Nelson the Clown, who had disappeared just after luring the people of Yarmouth to their doom. In fact, there is no other trace of the clown. Besides faint ghostly laughter still heard along the Bure River, sometimes punctuated by happy horns.

A dam accident in the 1970s killed tens, if not hundreds of thousands, but China covered it up

China wanted to build a whole bunch of dams in the 1950s. In fact, they didn’t know anything about building dams, so they asked for help from the only country that never made a mistake during construction: the USSR. The blind leading the blind, they built the Banqiao Dam on the Ru River. They informally dubbed it the “iron dam” because they considered it unbreakable. “Even God couldn’t break that dam!” they would have said, if belief in God were not prohibited by law.

When you build dam systems, you build them to both hold water and mitigate flooding. The Banqiao Dam and surrounding dams in the area devoted much effort to the former, as Mao’s agricultural plan cherished water, but not so much to the latter. It worked quite well for a quarter of a century. Then came 1975 and a massive storm known as Typhoon Nina. Nearly 5 feet of rain fell, over the course of three days.


This damaged the whole area, especially the giant concrete numbers and letters.

The Banqiao Dam broke, and it broke 61 other dams by spilling its water towards them. It killed as many people as 100 Katrinas. We don’t even know the death toll for sure, but Human Rights Watch puts it at 230,000, a combination of people who first died when the water broke through a million homes and those who died in the famine that followed. The Chinese government then dropped supplies on the area, but they dropped about half of them directly into the water, so it sank before it could reach anyone.