Our world can be unpredictably turbulent, with an unstable mantle causing earthquakes and the atmosphere spawning destructive storms. More often than not, the tumultuous effects of such fearsome weather patterns result in human tragedy. Here, we explore the world's deadliest natural calamities, hoping to inspire diligent care for our unforgiving Mother Nature.
The Deadliest Natural Disasters in World HistoryPublished 5 months ago
Texas is no stranger to deadly natural disasters, but when Hurricane Harvey hit the state’s coast on August 25, 2017, Texas and its people were not prepared to endure the wrath that claimed a total of 107 lives, leaving grief, shock, and frustration in its wake.
Undisturbed by the deaths of the residents, the category 4 hurricane formidably caused around $180 billion in damage. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey residents found wiped out buildings, abandoned homes, and flooded complexes. A huge portion of the casualties resulted from the gross amount of wind and water the coastal regions were inundated with.
Hurricane Katrina is ranked as the sixth deadliest hurricane to have ever occurred along the Gulf Coast. The harrowing details of the extreme tropical cyclone include the flooding of thousands of houses and formidable destruction of countless properties. The calamity was one of the first to substantially terrify the modern residents of Texas and Florida.
Gulf cities like New Orleans were struck with its most crushing damage with the low altitude of the town meaning it received insane flooding. As devastating as it can get, hurricane Katrina caused 1,800 deaths and 81 billion dollars in damage. Although it only ranked as a Category 3 hurricane, it goes to show that worst things can still happen.
Little did San Francisco residents realize that they were about to be surprised with a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. In April of 1906, a resounding shake eliminated large parts of the city and most of its surrounding buildings. But what intensified the earthquake itself were other disasters that quickly followed.
Fires, smoke, and an exhausted water supply were the central disasters that caused devastating damage. Around 3,000 people were listed in the death toll and 28,000 buildings were destroyed. The merciless quake also left 200,000 San Francisco residents in a state of homelessness for a couple of months after the initial shock.
One of the deadliest hurricanes to have struck the grounds of the United States was the 2017 hurricane, Maria. Listed as a Category 4 hurricane, the severe cyclone hit the island of Puerto Rico with cruel winds ranging from 135 to 155 miles per hour. The tragedy is believed to have killed a total of 4,645 people.
Considered as one of the most shocking and large-scale catastrophes to occur on US land, the cyclone claimed more lives than both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina combined. The aftermath saw a city that is still recovering. The horrible damage caused countless works of infrastructure like school, hospitals, apartments, and other buildings to collapse.
Back in 2009, a new breed of the flu had surfaced. As such, human bodies were not adaptable to this new breed of flu and so were ill-equipped to defend against it. As you might expect when a new strand of flu like this (dubbed the H1N1) occurs, the results were substantially complex and devastating. The flu originated from swine and took the nation by a mightily destructive surprise.
The influenza pandemic produced symptoms similar to pneumonia and particularly affected the very young and very old sectors of the population. The total human tragedy of the disease was 13,000, 85 percent of which happened in people over 65 years of age. Alarmingly, the population of those hospitalized was higher, totaling to around 280,000 patients.
Located on one of the most explosive tectonic plates on Earth, India is vulnerable to earthquakes. However, the country’s western coastal region of Chobari village was shocked when the Gujarat earthquake hit the area in January 2001. The quake was extremely strong, measuring at 7.6 or 7.7 on the Richter scale, and it leveled around 400,000 homes.
Moreover, 20,000 people lost their lives from the catastrophe and around 167,000 others suffered injuries. The earthquake also left around 600,000 people homeless. Indeed, the horrible event was one of the deadliest tragedies to rattle the inhabitants of the Indian continent.
Stratovolcanoes are considered as the end-product of large magma build-ups underneath equally large portions of land. Popular examples of these volcanoes are Krakatoa located in Indonesia and Mount Vesuvius situated in Italy. Included on the list of famous stratovolcanoes is the Nevado del Ruiz. The thing is, when the del Ruiz volcano erupted, it produced insane statistics in terms of human tragedy.
The Nevado del Ruiz eruption in November of 1985 caused the pyroclastic flow from the volcano to level the nearby town of Armero. Because of the devastation caused by the eruption, the catastrophe was named the “Amero Tragedy” to identify the magnitude of its aftermath. The volcano eruption claimed 25,000 lives, naming it one of the most deadly events in the history of Amero.
Though wildfires are a part of Australian natural history, the 2019-2020 fires are among the worst the country has seen. A prolonged drought starting in 2017 set the stage for these fires to be deadlier than in the past, as the extremely dry conditions have allowed sparks to easily travel and catch, spreading the fires quickly.
The fires have burned over 10 million hectares (100,000 sq, kilometers) of land - comparable to the entire area of England. Some blazes have been burning for months, and have even created their own weather systems from the smoke produced. Thousands of people have been displaced, and the casualty count of animals has hit over 1 billion across the continent, with many more in danger from both the fires and from starvation as habitats have been lost. To try to save the remaining wildlife, Australia has employed planes to drop carrots and sweet potatoes for the hungry survivors.
Gulang county is a county in China that used to be parallel to the Silk Road and which now sits in Russia. Back in 1927, the region was severely hurt by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake held responsible for the deaths of about 40,000 people. This deadly disaster was one that the Indian subcontinent cannot forget.
The damage of the quake resulted in the collapse of infrastructure throughout the nearby cities of Ningxia, Lanzhou, and Liangzhou. But the epicenter of the quake hit Gulang county the hardest. Because of the extensive aftermath, the locals called the earthquake the time “when the mountains walked.”
Italy is positioned at the border of some tectonic plates (the parts of the Earth’s crust that reposition and move). The island of Sicily owes its picturesque mountain ranges and volcanoes to the constantly moving plates. However, this kind of beauty has a shadow side; the devastation of earthquakes being the king of this dark natural beauty.
In 1693, the region was lambasted by a harrowing earthquake. Measuring a magnitude of 7.4, the quake killed around 60,000 people. Beyond the human tragedy, it wiped out several nearby cities, totaling an estimated 2,200 square miles of damage. The catastrophe that Sicily endured was one of the worst in the history of the region.
The 2003 European heatwave was one of the worst to have hit Europe in more than two centuries. Aside from massive crop destruction throughout the country, it also produced extremely high temperatures that exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Residents of European nations, particularly areas throughout France, were not accustomed to the hot weather as their summer season is usually 78 degrees. So, when the heat wave occurred, they didn’t fully apply the need to hydrate.
Due to Europe’s lack of preparation, the country suffered a stupefying death toll of 70,000 people. This unbelievable number was mostly made up of old people who couldn’t easily cope with the changes. Still, the heatwave was an unforgettable tragedy with massive forest fires and flooding.
The Pakistan earthquake that occurred in 2005 measured as a 7.6 on the Richter scale and its devastation was felt mainly in the neighboring region of Kashmir. The waves rebounded into Pakistan, destroying various roads, buildings and other infrastructure. The tragedy, considered to be one of the deadliest to hit the region, was responsible for the deaths of around 75,000 people.
But the number of injured people was far greater with estimates in the region of 106,000. On a financial note, the quake produced $5.4 billion in damages. The dark consequences of the event caused misery and horror in the civilian and architectural life of the inhabitants of Pakistan. It took a lot of years for the wrecked country to recuperate and rebuild their homes and lives.
When the cyclone Nargis hit the shores of Myanmar back in 2008, a massive catastrophe was produced. In total, it claimed a staggering number of 84,500 lives. The category 3 /4 cyclone produced such vicious winds and rain that the small town was almost entirely leveled. This resulted in around 53,800 people being listed as missing.
The devastating cyclone Nargis was rated as the most deadly disaster to have ever landed in Myanmar. The densely populated area of Irrawaddy delta aided the cyclone to be disastrous as this is the place where a huge part of the tragedy unraveled.
Coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in early January 2020 and has since spread around the globe in just a short time, with cases cropping up in Indonesia, Europe, and North America. The virus is spread by airborne droplets and is notable for being contagious even when its host does not show symptoms.
The World Health Organization declared the virus to be a global health emergency in late January of 2020 with tens of thousands infected. Many countries have banned travel to or from China. China has quarantined several cities in Hubei province (where Wuhan is located), affecting around 50 million people.
Aleppo is one of Syria’s major cities but a catastrophe unfolded and transformed the place. In 1138, the city was entirely different than it is today: the absence of its structural character and foundation to deal with earthquakes is evident and this caused massive destruction for the city. Back in October of 1138, local historians registered an earthquake beyond which the city had ever experienced.
The quake was so severely destructive that it wiped out numerous buildings of Aleppo. The earthquake was mainly caused by the persistent collision of the African and Arabian tectonic plates, which are hitting against each other. The tragic natural disaster was responsible for an astonishing 230,000 deaths.
The Haiti earthquake is one of the more well-known events on this list. When it occurred on Jan. 12, 2010, its damaging effects named it to be one of the deadliest natural calamities in human history.
Registered at around 7 on the Richter scale with a depth of 8.1 miles, Haiti’s earthquake was responsible for the deaths of around 230,000 people. Its epicenter hit the southwest part of Port-Au-Prince with tremendous force, followed by 59 recorded aftershocks ranging from 4.2 to 5.9 in magnitude. The wrath of the quake produced 3 million injured people and 2 million homeless people. According to reports, US$195 million has been donated, along with another US$120 million in pledges from numerous countries to help rebuild lives, homes, and infrastructure.
Earthquakes are measured through the Richter scale and with each move up the scale (for instance, from 4 to 5), they multiply by an amplitude of 10. This explains why an earthquake registered with a magnitude of 9 is 100 times more destructive than an earthquake with a listed magnitude of 7. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was just like the latter, registered with a terrifying magnitude of 9.
What caused intense devastation, aside from crumbling infrastructure, is the risk of ravaging tsunamis. In this case, the tsunami struck the hardest in Sumatra, Indonesia. It was measured as 98 feet in height and wiped out most parts of the island. Worst of all was the death toll which was estimated to range from 230,000 to 280,000 people.
Apparently, one of Mother Nature’s favorite merciless actions is the creation of devastating earthquakes. For one to be considered among the most deadly natural disasters, it must have a registered magnitude of 7 or higher. The earthquake in Antioch that occurred in 526, the exact magnitude of which is unknown, proved to be devastating, too—it was responsible for taking the lives of 250,000 people.
Considering that the civilization of the time was not equipped with the devices and equipment to do so, measuring the earthquake’s exact magnitude was extremely difficult. Instead, modern geologists have had to depend on ancient accounts of the human tragedy and the damages. Using the data they have gathered, they can compare the magnitude of damage to that of a contemporary earthquake. The Antioch earthquake happened during Ascension Day, a religious holiday.
Tangshan, China suffered another 7.8 magnitude earthquake on July 28, 1976. The ferocious quake decimated the region, leveling numerous blocks of the industrial city. Moreover, the catastrophe of the small town produced an alarming death toll with an estimated 255,000 people in total.
However, the number of injured far outweighed the number of those who got killed by the quake—around 700,000 people. The tragedy was so powerful that a book was written about it titled The Great Tangshan Earthquake: An Anatomy of Disaster, which details the harrowing events of the tragedy. The overwhelming damage took the country many years to fully recover from.
China is prone to earthquakes and Haiyuan Country, located in central China met its fateful day on Dec. 16, 1920, due to a resounding quake that hit the region. Earthquakes surrounding central China are considered somehow common due to the land’s connection with other tectonic plates. This is explained by the Eurasian plate (where China is based) that consistently collides against the Indian plate (which created the Himalayas), hence, earthquakes abound.
Registered with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale, the Haiyuan earthquake claimed the lives of around 273,400 people. Because of the quake’s magnitude, the shock and intensity of the blast could be felt even from hundreds of miles away. As such, the damage was extraordinarily massive.
The Calcutta earthquake that occured in 1737 is considered to be one of the deadliest natural disasters in the world. For instance, there are accounts insisting that the lives of around 300,000 people were claimed by the quake. But geologists, comparing contradicting reports from the time, are suspicious of this claim.
Merchant sailors who were visiting the location at the time did not record any mention of said quake after landing on the shores of Calcutta. If these documents are taken as more reliable, they suggest that such a tragic earthquake ever happened. Similar reports were also sent to the East India Company claiming that the death toll was minor—at around 3,000 people in total. Either way, the earthquake was still tragic.
A cyclone is described as a spiral of vicious winds that can cause chaos in the places around which they occur. And this is what India experienced back in 1839. The strong winds lambasted the town by surprise, hitting the port city of Coringa. This particular cyclone wasn’t the last to have struck the small Indian coastal community.
However, this cyclone was estimated to have taken the lives of around 300,000 people. The aftermath of the disaster also showed the ripped buildings and collapsed trees. An estimated 20,000 ships were also reported to have been destroyed by the powerful storm.
This natural calamity is affiliated with the 1839 cyclone that struck India. However, instead of a cyclone, this deadly tragedy was caused by a typhoon. Basically, typhoons are a more developed type of a cyclone. They have more intense winds and produce heavier rainfall. Here in Vietnam, the typhoon had wrapped its intense embrace around the town of Haiphong.
When it did, the damage it produced was tremendous. Having taken the lives of around 300,000 people, the Haiphong typhoon also decimated much of the surrounding infrastructure. One of the main reasons why this typhoon was so disastrous was because it had divided into two separate storm fronts, allowing it to cover a bigger amount of space.
This particular cyclone took the nation of (what is now known as) Bangladesh by surprise. The deadly disaster immensely flooded the town and caused havoc. The damage quickly spread that it even killed an abundance of the region’s livestock.
While the numbers on the exact death toll vary, the estimates show a low of 300,000 to a high of 500,000 people killed by the disaster. Either way, a vast number of lives and infrastructure were taken away. And the shattered city of Bangladesh could do little but rely on the financial, medical, and emotional assistance of many countries and their federal government, too.
It seems that China isn’t spared much suffering with nature shifting from one giant earthquake to another in a seemingly endless procession. On Jan. 23, 1556, the city of Jiajing was taken by surprise with a wild earthquake that was named the Jiajing Great Earthquake. Also known as the greatest earthquake in history, it literally tore down the poor town of Jiajing.
An estimated 621 square miles of the city had been destroyed by the powerful quake and approximately 830,000 people died from its cruelty. This ancient earthquake made it tough for geologists to determine its exact magnitude but modern estimates listed it around a significantly high scale of 8.
Why is the Yellow River in China different than many of the other rivers in the industrial town? Simply because a series of dikes properly placed by their local farmers had eventually elevated it, making it higher than the land surrounding it. While this was beneficial for their farming livelihood, it proved tragic later on.
In 1887, when heavy rainfall filled the Yellow River, it started to overflow. Because the river is significantly higher than the lands around it, it is extraordinarily vulnerable to flooding. And when the flooding began, the local landscape had to endure a disastrous event that led to the death of around 900,000 citizens.
Another catastrophe in the history of China occured in the form of a devastating flood. Back in 1931, a torrent of rainwater flooded several cities. The flood was caused by the Yangtze River and the massive tragedy that it caused prompted the release of a book, entitled The Nature of Disaster in China. The book detailed how the flood decimated more than 70,000 square miles of land.
Unfortunately, the large developing body of water transformed into a small lake. The main problem was that the lake was developed on nearby existing towns. Per the reports of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the flood that hit central China killed as many as 3.7 million people, making the catastrophe one of the worst in the world.
Apparently, humans are not the best creatures in the world at quickly developing immunity to things we haven’t had exposure to. As such, we can expect horrible effects when new viruses arise. One classic example of this situation is the Spanish Influenza that spread across Europe, North America, and Asia at a speed like no other.
The flu hit the hardest during 1918, quickly infecting an alarming population of people. The extraordinary breed of flu took the lives of approximately 40 to 100 million people, infecting many others. The Spanish Flu was considered the most deadly disease to have ever smashed the world. With an overwhelming death toll in a short period of time, the speed outmatched that of the greatest mass killer: the Black Death.
Also known as the bubonic plague, the Black Death was one of the worst catastrophes to have ever hit humankind. This particular epidemic spread by fleas that carry Yersinia pestis, a bacteria responsible for the deaths that range from 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population. Imagine an Infinity Wars, Thanos-like killing, wiping out half the population around you in what seems like just the snap of a finger.
Back in 1348, the death toll suggested more than 350 million people in Europe had been killed. The epidemic was considered the greatest disaster to have occurred since literally anything before it. The Black Death is known for its extensive duration and the magnitude of its damage. We hope a horrible event like this won’t happen again.
These unique snapshots freeze the moments just before the unfolding of tragedy. While a few are lucky enough to encounter close calls, the majority hint at dark outcomes- some are aware of their impending danger, some completely oblivious. Either way, these photographers managed to be in the right (or wrong) place at the right time- Let's dive in...
A genuine act of selflessness that led to death. In 1995, Robert Overacker, an adrenaline addict, attempted to jet ski over Niagara Falls to raise awareness for the homeless. To his surprise and everyone else’s for that matter, his parachute never opened as he lifted to jump across the falls.
Due to this mechanical error, Overacker plummeted to his death and was swallowed up by the falls. The image captures the moment when Robert tragically lifts off over Niagara Falls expecting his parachute to open.
Filipino politician Reynaldo Dagsa accidentally photographed a gang member who, moments later, would shoot him to death. Just as the politician was taking a picture of his daughter, wife, and mother-in-law, the hitman pops into the image and points the gun at Dagsa.
He then pressed the camera button to take his last photograph. Luckily, his three relatives were unharmed as the assassination was clearly meant for him only. Moments after he took this photo, Dagsa was shot in cold blood.
In 2012, 12 people got on a scenic hot air balloon ride in Carterton, New Zealand. As the rainbow-colored balloon floated peacefully through the bright blue sky on a lovely sunny day, it suddenly sparked into a bright electric flash as it plowed into high-voltage power lines. The balloon exploded like a firework in the sky.
All 12 passengers died. Rumor has it that the pilot, who also died, may have been responsible for the collision. It is believed he may have been under the influence of drugs at the time.
Tina and Gabe Watson were newlyweds on their honeymoon to Australia. Gabe wanted to go diving at the Great Barrier Reef, and to convince Tina to do so, he told her that he was a certified scuba diver. That was a blatant lie.
When the currents got too strong, Gabe quickly swam back to the surface, leaving Tina behind to perish, later saying an ear problem prevented him from diving down deeper to help her. This image depicts Tina on her last breath, lying sideways on the seafloor behind another diver posing, oblivious to what was happening behind them.
In 1980 while performing his own stunt, Indian actor Krishnan Nair, better known as Jayan, fell to his death. He had been a well-known emblem of 1970s India who performed in many action films and had a distinct and macho style.
During the filming of the movie Kolilakkam, Jayan was performing a daredevil stunt on a flying helicopter, which he insisted on doing multiple takes off. When the helicopter he was hanging on lost control, Jayan was killed. He is caught here on film, seconds before tragedy struck.
Four engineers were performing routine maintenance at the top of a 67-meter-high wind turbine in Holland when a fire broke out atop the turbine.
Two of the engineers thankfully managed to escape safe and sound. The other two were trapped at the top and died in the burning flames. In this photo, you can see the pair hugging each other as they await their deaths. We only hope that this human connection may have made facing the situation a bit more bearable.
A couple of tourists asked for their picture to be taken with Niagara Falls as the backdrop. Little did they know that the Japanese student lurking in the background was contemplating her suicide. Imagine, innocently getting your picture taken and recording the last image of an unknown person, minutes before she jumps to her death.
In this image, Ayano Tokumasu is seen in a red coat overlooking Niagara Falls, moments before she straddled the railings and took her own life by jumping into the falls.
Pavel Kashin was a Russian free-runner famous for his death-defying feats and superb agility. In 2013, he was performing a stunt on the edge of a 16-story building in St. Petersburg and fell to his death.
He was attempting a backflip off the edge of the building when he lost balance and free-fell 16 stories to the ground. Pavel did not survive the brutal fall. His friend caught him attempting his last flip. Ultimately, Pavel died doing what he loved best.
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School and started shooting students and faculty. William 'Dave" Sanders, a teacher, ran to the cafeteria to warn the students. He was able to evacuate everyone to safety. That day Harris and Klebold shot twelve students and one teacher—the teacher being Dave.
In this image Dave is seen running to the cafeteria, risking his life to save those of the pupils seen in the image. Dave managed to save a large number of lives, at the expense of his own. He died a hero.
This is the haunting last photo of Duncan snorkeling in the background (in a red circle) as his 2-year-old son is playing on the beach. Seconds later, Duncan disappears and his remains are found later that day on the beach.
Mom, Taylia Craw, took the picture, and it's the last photo of her husband, while the family was vacationing in the south of Australia. Later, authorities notified Taylia that Duncan (32) actually died from an unknown cause and only after that, was eaten by sharks.
During the time of the Vietnam War, Buddhist monks would set themselves on fire to protest their persecution by the South Vietnamese government. Many consequently died and many more suffered permanently-scarring injuries from the deep burns all over their bodies.
The photo shows monk Thích Quang Duc being covered in gasoline just before lighting himself on fire in June 1963 in Saigon. His act, despite its horrifying nature, would bring international attention, including from sitting U.S President John F. Kennedy, to the persecution taking place.
This is Olesia. She was so tired of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus, that the second they allowed people to travel, Olesia immediately took her friends and headed to Duden Park in Turkey. Olesia is from Kazakhstan, but she was "stuck" in Turkey during the lockdown.
This is her last image. A few seconds later she lost her balance and plummeted more than 100 feet (30 meters) down the cliff. She was 31 when she died.
Imagine driving down the highway and witnessing a commercial airliner out of control, flying sideways across the road. That is exactly what was captured in this image.
A domestic flight in Taiwan, TransAsia Flight 235, was captured flying out of control across a suspended highway, seconds before crashing into the Keelung River. An engine malfunction caused the plane to topple in mid-air and lose control in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Forty-two of the 58 passengers on board lost their lives.
Decked out in her trendy cut-off shorts and a pink spaghetti strap shirt that could rival any teenager's wardrobe, Grandma exuded a cool vibe. During her stroll, she couldn't resist a selfie session, conveniently choosing a spot where an alligator had cozied up.
This British man called George King-Thompson is a free climber and, in 2023, he was spotted climbing Lotte World Tower, the fifth-tallest skyscraper in the world located in Seoul.
The man had reached 1,020ft high when he was apprehended by police and told them he wished to base-jump from the pinnacle of the building after authorities noticed he was carrying a parachute. Way to say they caught him before any sort of tragedy could happen.
In 2013, Elisa Lam, a college student, went missing. She was last seen, as seen in this video, taking the elevator at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The video shows her talking to herself and it seems she was trying to hide from someone. The worried look on her face insinuates that she knew she was in trouble.
Her body was eventually found in a water tank at the top of the Cecil Hotel. To this day, her case remains unsolved.
In 2008, Adelir Antônio de Carli, a Brazilian priest, flew to his death in an attempt to break a world record. His mission was to fly in the sky with 600 balloons for over 19 hours. He trained for the event but he forgot to learn how to use the GPS on his mobile phone.
That vital error is what ultimately brought him to his early death. Unable to use the GPS from his mobile to alert people of his location, the priest disappeared into thin air. Months later, parts of his body were found washed ashore.
Paul William Walker IV was an American actor and philanthropist best known for his role as Brian O'Conner in the film series, The Fast and the Furious. The movie series was about fast cars, a fascination that ultimately took his life. At the young age of 40, Walker was killed in a car accident.
This is the last image of Paul Walker alive. Here he is stepping into the car that would ultimately kill him and his friend Roger Rodas, moments later. The two men passed away after the Porsche Carrera GT crashed into a tree going 100mph.
William Dee Becker was the 35th Mayor of St. Louis from 1941 to 1943. The son of German immigrants, Becker graduated from Harvard University and St. Louis Law School. He ran his own private law practice for 15 years and was elected to a twelve-year term on the St. Louis Court of Appeals in 1916.
In 1943, Mayor William D. Becker, along with other St. Louis politicians, sat aboard a military glider for a test run. The glider successfully took off. Once in mid-air, the left wing collapsed. The glider fell to the ground, spinning out of control, and killed all ten passengers aboard.
In 1978, the worst aviation accident in the history of California took place above San Diego. A commercial airliner, Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182, collided with a private airplane, killing 144 passengers and crew members.
Both planes crashed in the North Park area of the city and destroyed 22 homes. This tragedy instigated an investigation that would prompt major changes in air traffic protocol and safety procedures. It also reignited the debate over having an airport in such a densely populated area.