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Looking back a decade: CRJ's tenth anniversary

Posted on 25th July 2014 at 13:49pm

In a shortened version of a longer article that will appear in the next issue of CRJ, Tony Moore looks back at the incidents that occurred in 2004, the year that Crisis Response Journal was launched (our first ever front cover is pictured below)

Issue 1shad.jpgWith one exception, the South East Asian tsunami, 2004, the year in which the Crisis Response Journalwas launched, was little different from any other year in terms of the types and numbers of crises that occurred. It was a year in which thousands of people were killed, millions were physically injured or traumatised, and property damage or destruction amounted to billions of dollars. Some crises were caused deliberately or by human error and people were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. But the year also revealed tales of immense bravery by rescuers, a number of whom were killed, and fortitude on the part of the victims.

The next issue of CRJ looks at these incidents in more detail, but in the meantime, here is a list of the prominent ones:

South East Asian earthquake and tsunami, December 26, 2004

Terrorism attacks in: Iraq; Afghanistan; Pakistan; Israel; Bangladesh; Colombia; Greece; Indonesia; Kashmir in India; Laos; Nepal; Saudi Arabia; Spain; the Philippines; Turkey; Russia; and Ukraine.

Aircraft accidents: There were a number of aircraft accidents during the year, most of which resulted in 50 fatalities or less in each case. An exception to this trend occurred on January 3, when a Boeing 737-300 being operated by an Egyptian charter company, Flash Airlines, with 148 POB, crashed into the Red Sea shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to Paris.

Disease: Commonly known as bird or Avian flu, H5N1 had been spreading through Asia since 2003 However, 2004, saw a major outbreak in Vietnam and Thailand amongst the poultry populations of both countries which, within weeks, had spread to ten countries and regions in Asia, including China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

Building fires: There were three horrendous building fires in 2004, one in Asia and two in South America, which killed nearly 700 people.

Collapsed structures: The roof of a popular water park, housing several heated pools, in a suburb of Moscow, collapsed killing 28 people injuring a further 191.

Crowd disasters: One such incident is worthy of note here but it was not unusual for the period. As pilgrims flocked over the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, near Mecca, to hurl stones at pillars representing the devil, some people collapsed or tripped, which led the surging crowd to panic; a stampede ensued during which 251 people were killed and a further 244 injured.

Explosions: There were a number of explosions that were not terrorist related around the world. A gas explosion ripped through a nine-story apartment building in Arkangelsk in Russia, killing 58 people. An explosion in a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) production unit at Formosa Plastics in Illinois, USA, killed five workers and seriously injured two others. In Belgium, following reports of a gas leak, there was a major explosion of an underground high-pressure natural gas pipeline in an industrial park at Ghislenghien, about 50 km south-west of Brussels. Twenty-four people, mostly firefighters and police who had responded to the original gas leak, were killed. In Denmark, a fireworks factory in Kolding experienced a massive explosion, which killed one firefighter and injured seven others along with 17 local people.

Mining disasters: The two worst single incidents in 2004 occurred in October, at the Daping mine in Zhenghou, when a gas explosion killed 148 miners, and in November, at the Chenjiashan mine, were another gas explosion killed 171 miners.

Natural disasters: Aside from the South East Asian earthquake and tsunami, there were a number of other natural disasters in 2004. A 6.4 earthquake in northern Morocco near the coastal town of Hoceima killed 628 people and left 15,000 homeless. But it was cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons that wreaked havoc across wide areas at various times during the year, commencing, in March, with Tropical Cyclone Gafilo, which killed nearly 300 people in Madagascar. In July, the worse monsoon flooding in 15 years in Bangladesh, northern India and Nepal left five million homeless and killed more than 1,800 people. In October, Typhoon Tokage, the deadliest to hit Japan for two decades, killed at least 80 people. Meanwhile, the Philippines suffered its worst storm season for 13 years, being hit successively by a number of tropical storms and typhoons. Landslides resulted in around 2,000 deaths. In mid-August, a Hurricane, Charley, struck the south-west coast of Florida. More than two million people evacuated and thousands were left homeless as a result of the damage; 31 were killed. In September, Hurricane Frances, which again caused mass-evacuations in the US, and had 38 deaths attributed to it, was followed by Hurricane Ivan, which caused considerable damage and nearly 120 deaths across Grenada, Jamaica, the Caymans and the US. This was followed by Hurricane Jeanne, which caused over 3,000 deaths in Haiti and a further 30 in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Florida. In the United Kingdom, flash floods in two villages in Cornwall, Boscastle and Crackington Haven, brought back memories of events on the same day in 1952, when 34 people lost their lives in a similar flash flood at Lynemouth. Fortunately, on this occasion, there was no loss of life but only because a fleet of seven Sea King helicopters rescued about 150 people from the roofs of buildings and tree-tops.

Nuclear incident: Japan suffered its most serious incident at a nuclear plant until the crisis at Fukushima in 2011, five workers were killed at the Mihama reactor by hot water and steam which leaked from a broken pipe; six others were injured.

Railway accidents: There were five railway accidents in Turkey during the year, killing over 100 people and injuring approximately 250. In Nishapur, Iran, 51 railway wagons, carrying sulphur, fertiliser and petrol, broke loose from their siding in a goods yard in the middle of the night and rolled down the track for about 20km until they derailed, crashing down an embankment into the town of Khayyam. A number of small fires broke out. Unaware of what the wagons contained, local emergency services arrived to extinguish the fires but the wagons exploded. Reported to be the equivalent of 180 tons of TNT, the explosion demolished the town of Khayyam and badly damaged five nearby towns. Over 300 people were killed. One-hundred-and-sixty-one people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured when flammable cargo on a train exploded at Ryongchon railway station in North Korea.

Road Traffic Collisions (RTCs): These are rarely considered when reference is made to crises and yet, on average, more than a million people are killed on the worlds' roads each year. 2004 was no exception. It was estimated that 1.2 million people were killed worldwide, and a further 50 million people were injured. Two accidents in Europe are worthy of mention here. The first, on 19 March occurred in Finland when a coach, carrying 38 passengers collided with a lorry and trailer, resulting in the death of the driver of the coach and 23 passengers. The second, on 24 May, occurred in Romania when a truck carrying 20 tons of ammonium nitrate overturned and caught fire. As emergency fire crews attempted to extinguish the fire, the truck exploded, killing 18 people. Among them were seven firefighters, a television crew, the truck driver and several villagers.

Closing comments

2004 was an eventful year. Many more crises of different types and of differing severity occurred, but there has been insufficient room to include them. The South-East Asian tsunami, the Beslan hostage crisis, the explosion on the Super Ferry and the destruction of Khayyam in Iran were all hugely significant events. Since then CRJ has been at the forefront of reporting such incidents as they occur. Long may it continue.

A former senior police officer with the Metropolitan Police, Tony Moore moved into academia, eventually becoming Associate Director of the Resilience Centre at Cranfield University based within the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. He retired from that post in April 2009 and is now a Visiting Fellow at the University.

During his academic career, he taught on a number of Master's degree programmes and ran crisis/disaster/ emergency management courses in Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, Central and Eastern Europe. He specialises in leadership and decision-making in stressful situations.

He is the co-editor of Tolley's Handbook of Disaster and Emergency Management, the 3rd edition of which was published in 2006 and is the author of Disaster and Emergency Management Systems, published by the British Standards Institution in November 2008. Tony is a regular contributor to Crisis Response Journal

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