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"Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature,
there is no appeal." — Arthur C. Clarke

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CHRONOLOGICAL listing of major disasters occurring worldwide during 2003, presented in descending order:
. . . . . . . . . .
january . february . march . april . may . june . july . august . september
october . november . december

incident/source links
At least 81 people are killed and 23 are reported missing after a gas explosion in a coal mine in eastern China. More than 100 workers are working 500-600 meters (1,600-2,000 ft) below the surface in the Luling Coal Mine—located in the city of Huaibei, 675 km (420 miles) south of Beijing—when the blast occurs. Luling Coal Mine is a large-scale operation, with between 5,000 and 6,000 workers. Approx. 7,000 people were killed in Chinese mine accidents last year.

Death Toll from China Coal Mine Blast Rises to 81
63 Killed in China Coal Mine Blast, 23 Missing
Dozens dead in China mine blast
Democratic Republic of Congo
Over 100 soldiers and their family members are killed in flight when the back ramp of a Soviet-era cargo plane, an Ilyushin 76, bursts open in flight at approx. 33,000 feet late Thursday evening, while ferrying troops from Kinshasa to the Democratic Republic of Congo's second city of Lubumbashi.

Congo Probes Air Disaster Caused by
Cargo Doors

Survivors relive Congo jet door horror
Passengers sucked out of plane
Scores Feared Sucked to Deaths from Congo Jet
United States
In over 7 days of savage storms and flash floods, tornadoes rake parts of central United States from Kansas eastward to Tennessee, killing at least 44 people in a rampage that obliterates entire neighborhoods and blows a freight train off its tracks. Missouri reports at least 18 deaths & 8 people missing; neighboring Kansas reports 7 dead. In western Tennessee, an F4 tornado (with winds topping 207 mph) kills 14, injures at least 117, and damages 1,600 homes and businesses. In Illinois, 2 are reported dead, at least 20 injured. Hundreds more are reported injured, as well as extensive damage throughout stricken areas. The National Storm Prediction Center calls it 'the deadliest tornado outbreak since November 2002' when 36 people were killed in Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Nearly 300 twisters are sighted in central and southeastern states Sunday evening.

Number of tornadoes stuns Tennessee
Tornadoes batter Kentucky, Illinois
Oklahoma Cleans Up from Tornado, Floods
in South

More Violent Weather Deaths in Central US
Severe weather pounds twister-stricken areas
More severe weather rolls through ravaged area
South braces in the path of a killer storm
Tornadoes Kill 27 in Three States
Floods kill at least 28 people in Kenya and force thousands to flee their submerged homes. Torrential rains submerge villages, wipe out roads and expose thousands to water-borne diseases. IFRC estimates 10,000 people are displaced.

Dozens die in Kenya floods
An accident on board a Chinese conventional submarine—No. 361, an indigenous Ming-class vessel—reportedly caused by mechanical problems during training exercises, kills all of its 70 officers and crew. No further details are given.

Reason for China Submarine Disaster a Mystery
China Submarine Accident Kills 70 - Xinhua
A powerful earthquake kills at least 167 people in a mountainous region of southeastern Turkey, including 84 boys and 1 teacher crushed when a boarding school collapses on dozens of sleeping students. Approx. 115 children are rescued; hundreds are reported injured. The quake, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, rocks the region at about 3:30 a.m. local time, flattening more than a dozen buildings in Bingol, about 500 kilometers (320 miles) east of Ankara. Others in the city and outlying countryside are badly damaged. A major earthquake last hit Bingol in 1971, killing about 900 people.

Turk Rescuers Say Metal Bunks Saved Boys
in Quake

Turkey quake search called off
Hope Fades for Boys Trapped in Turk Quake

Grim search at Turkey quake school
Hope Fading for Turkey Quake Survivors
Turks Race to Free Children Buried in Quake
Battle to save Turkey children
Twenty-Five Children Dead in Turkey Quake
Up to 110,000 people are left homeless after Wabe Shebelle river bursts its banks, flooding lowland areas in eastern Ethiopia. More than 117 people die, mostly through subsequent disease or attacks by crocodiles.

Floods, crocs kill 117 in Ethiopia
At least 39 people die and hundreds are reported missing as the worst storm in decades hits northeast India. Approx. 2,500 people are injured when the storm smashes through half a dozen villages in Dhubri district, between Bangladesh and Bhutan. More than 3,000 people are left homeless.

Hundreds missing in India
At least 184 people die and hundreds are reported missing after 2 ferries sink in storms that sweep parts of Bangladesh. The M.V. Mitali—which sinks at Alipur on the Buriganga river, near Dhaka, the capital—is dangerously overloaded, with 400 or more passengers against an approved capacity of 300; the other ferry carries about 100 passengers. Rescuers say strong river currents may wash away many bodies, never to be found.

Nearly 90 people have died in two ferry mishaps in the previous two weeks. Officials say the exact cost in lives of such disasters is often unknown, though river accidents in Bangladesh kill hundreds each year, with most river accidents occurring during summer tropical storms in April and May.

Bangladesh Rescuers Recover 50 Bodies
from Ferry

Bangladesh Ferry Deaths Rise to 117
Nearly 100 Dead After Bangladesh Ferries Sink
A fire kills 28 deaf children at a Russian boarding school located in the Caspian Sea port of Makhachkala in southern Russia as many of them slept in their beds. Twenty-nine other children are injured, 4 with serious burns. One firefighter is also treated for burns. The fire erupts at 2:30 a.m. local time. Officials link the latest tragedy to strong winds that brought down power lines overnight and later hindered fire-fighting efforts.

Fire at Russian Deaf School Kills 28 Children
Fire at Russian school kills 28
At least 21 students—aged between 11 and 18—and 1 teacher are killed when fire engulfs a rural school located in the remote village of Sydybal, about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) east of Moscow. Another 10 students are reported with burns and other injuries after they attempt to jump out the windows of the 2-story wooden building.

School fire kills 22 in Russia
A ferry packed with more than 170 people capsizes in a river in northeastern Bangladesh, killing at least 72. Victims include 41 children, 20 women and 1 man. The overcrowded boat sinks late Friday after hitting a barge near the industrial town of Chatak in Sunamganj district.

Bangladesh ferry death toll rises
At Least 62 Killed as Bangladesh Ferry Capsizes
Dozens drown in boat disaster
A landslide sweeps through the Bolivian mining town of Chima, located approx. 125 miles north of La Paz. 19 are confirmed dead; up to 400 remain missing. 150 homes are crushed.

Hopes Fade for Hundreds Buried in BoliviaMudslide
Landslide site may be declared mass grave
Hope fades for mudslide victims
Bolivia Mudslide Kills 14; 400 Feared Buried Alive
Hundreds to join landslide recovery effort
Mudslides kill 32 people after heavy rains pour down on the eastern Indonesian island of Flores.

Mudslides kill 32 in Indonesia
At least 111 drown after the Congolese-owned ferry, MV Kasobwe, sinks in Lake Tanganyika off the shores of Burundi near Nyanza Lac, 110 kilometers (68 miles) southwest of Bujumbura during a storm. 41 people survive. While the ferry's capacity is less than 100 passengers, its manifest lists 64 names, but port authorities in Kalemie estimate the boat was carrying more approx. 200 people, including many women and children.

Up to 150 Drown in Burundi as Boat Capsizes
Burundi boat tragedy claims 111
19 people are killed after torrential rains trigger mudslides in a mountainous region of western Colombia in the city of Manizales, 165 kilometers (105 miles) northwest of Bogota, and flooding in the eastern border town of Villamaria, near Manizales. More than 20 people are reported missing; dozens of homes are destroyed.

Colombian mudslides kill 19
Hong Kong/
The World Health Organisation (WHO) issues a global health alert, the first in a decade, regarding an unusual strain of killer pneumonia that spreads from Asia across the globe via air travel. The super-spreader Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—a mutated virus belonging to the coronaviruses family, the second leading cause of the common cold—kills at least 610 people and infects thousands of others across the globe. WHO experts suspect the first case of SARS may have appeared November 2002 in China's southern Guangdong province where 305 people became ill and 5 died.

See: Spread of SARS | Country Breakdown

Taiwan Health Chief Quits Over Rapid
SARS Spread

WHO Says Singapore Nearly SARS-Free
China Suspends Foreign Adoptions Due to SARS
WHO cites progress in containing SARS
China Threatens to Execute SARS-Spreaders

* Full SARS sources listing *
West Africa
A meningitis epidemic (meningococcal disease) in the impoverished West African country of Burkina Faso kills more than 1,200 people. As of 19 April 2003, the Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso reports 6,234 cases so far this year, with a mortality rate of 14.6 percent. Of the 53 districts in Burkina Faso, 7 districts reach the epidemic threshold: Batie, Bogande, Bousse, Manga, Pama, Po and Zabre and 9 districts are in the alert phase: Barsalogho, Boulsa, Dano, Koudougou, Leo, Nanoro, Sapone, Tenkodogo and Zorgho. The incidence overall continues to increase. Preliminary results from samples tested indicate Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A and W135. Last year, out of 14,453 reported cases, 1,743 people died from a virulent new W135 strain of meningitis. Burkina Faso is at the heart of a region dubbed Africa's "meningitis belt" which stretches from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east and comprises 18 countries frequently hit by meningitis epidemics. The ministry said the outbreak had reached epidemic proportions — 10 cases for every 100,000 people in a week — in five of the country's 53 health districts.

Meningitis Kills Over 1,200 in West Africa
World Health Organization: outbreak news
Centers for Disease Control
Meningitis kills 400 in Burkina Faso
A devastating 6.8 earthquake, the worst to strike the Xinjiang region in 5 decades, shakes China's remote northwest, killing at least 266 people, injuring more than 4,000 half of whom suffer severe injuries, and causing thousands of buildings to collapse near the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar. 50,000 are left homeless or otherwise affected by the disaster, and 8,861 homes and 900 school classrooms are leveled. In Qiongkuer Qiake village, 22 primary and secondary school students are killed and 40 injured. More than 11,000 farm animals are killed as barns and stalls collapse. The quake strikes the western edge of Xinjiang province at 10.03 a.m. Monday (0203 GMT). The epicenter is located near sparsely populated Jiashi county, 100 miles east of Kashgar; but Bachu, further east, and its 370,000 residents, many subsistence farmers, suffer most. In the heart of the quake zone 5,000 soldiers, militia, police and rescue crews comb through collapsed houses and school buildings looking for survivors. Rattled nerves force villagers outdoors in near-freezing temperatures, afraid to venture into their homes for fear of further damage.

The quake is felt in the provincial capital Urumqi, more than 1,000 kilometers to the northeast although no damage or casualties is reported there. Xinjiang, which has a majority Muslim population, comprises about 16 percent of China's total landmass, much of it made up of sparsely populated desert. Bachu county is about 3,330 kilometers (2,070 miles) west of Beijing, near China's mountainous border with Kyrgyzstan. Several aftershocks rock the area Tuesday; the strongest measures 5.5 on the Richter scale and is recorded at 11:52 a.m. (10:52 p.m. EST Monday). The country's largest quake in recent times struck the northern city of Tangshan in 1976, killing more than a quarter of a million people.

See Timeline: China's major earthquake

Dogs hunt for quake survivors |CNN
Rescuers Comb Rubble for China Quake
Quake Kills 260, Injures Thousands
in China
China earthquake kills hundreds |CNN
A military plane crashes in southeastern Iran just before it is due to land at Kerman airport, killing all 276 on board, including many members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards and crew members. The Ilyushin-76, flying to Kerman from Zahedan, close to Iran's border with Pakistan, crashes 20 miles southeast of Kerman. The crash is Iran's worst ever, with one of the highest death tolls in aviation history. The crash is blamed on bad weather. Formed shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the Revolutionary Guards force is independent of the regular army and played a key role in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Today it numbers approx. 120,000 personnel, answering directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—the head of Iran's Shi'ite Muslim establishment.

Iran Revises Plane Crash Death Toll Down
to 276
Fog halts Iran air crash search |CNN
Plane carrying at least 250 people crashes
in Iran
Previous Iran air crashes |CNN
UN health officials confirm an Ebola outbreak in the Cuvette West region of the Republic of Congo; atleast 120 deaths out of 135 cases are reported from the highly lethal haemorrhagic fever. Ebola, one of the world's deadliest viruses, causes rapid death through massive blood loss in up to 90 percent of those infected. Ebola spreads through bodily fluids. Primates, hunted by many central Africans for food, can carry the infection. The Lossi sanctuary reports the disease wipes out over two-thirds of its gorilla population, leaving only 450 out of a total 1,200 alive. The outbreak of Ebola in the districts of Kelle and Mbomo near the central African country's northern border with Gabon is thought by scientists to have been caused by the consumption of infected monkey meat. The forested Cuvette West region has 30,000 inhabitants spread among provincial towns and small villages. Feb. 25th, WHO announces the outbreak appears to be contained. More than 1,000 people have died of Ebola since the virus was first identified in 1976 in Sudan and Congo.

Ebola death toll reaches 120 |CNN
Ebola outbreak kills 100 in Congo |CNN
Experts: Slower rate of Ebola infections |CNN
Ebola outbreak controlled, say WHO |CNN
'Ebola spell' teachers stoned |CNN
Ebola outbreak 'not contained' |CNN
World Health Organization: outbreak news
Centers for Disease Control: Ebola
South Korea
At at 0955 (0255GMT), a fire breaks out in a crowded commuter train in the Daegu subway station in South Korea, killing at least 196 people, injuring hundreds and leaving 300 missing. The fire—which begins in one train, igniting seats and plastic flooring before spreading to a second train—is started by a 56-year-old former taxi driver with a history of mental problems who ignites a milk carton filled with flamable liquid before hurling it onto a train stopped at Chungang-ro subway station. The single subway line runs through the center of Daegu, the third largest city in South Korea with a population of about 2.5 million.I n 1995, 100 people died in a gas explosion during the construction of the Taegu subway system.

South Korean Subway Inferno Toll
Nears 200
Anger, Death Toll Grows in S.Korea
Subway Disaster
Grim search in S. Korean subway |CNN
Fears S. Korea subway toll will rise |CNN
United States
A fire breaks out at The Station, a Rhode Island nightclub, killing 98 and injuring more than 180, 33 critically. The club burns to the ground Thursday night after pyrotechnics from the rock band Great White's stage show ignites soundproofing material behind the stage and quickly engulfs the building. The fire engulfs the wooden structure in less than three minutes. Most of the victims are found crowded together at the front door, despite the fact that there are 3 other functioning exits illuminated by battery-powered lights, which patrons may not have been able to see due to thick, black smoke that quickly fills the club; some victims die from smoke inhalation, others are trampled to death.

R.I. nightclub fire claims 98th victim |CNN
Families to visit scene of nightclub fire;
31 victims identified
Judge blocks charges against E2 owners |CNN
A tornado tears through remote villages in central Congo, killing 164 people, destroying homes and ruining crops. The 15-minute twister injures 1,700 people—more than 200 critically—in Bandundu province, located 150 miles northeast of the capital, Kinshasa. In its wake, famine threatens. Congo is emerging from a 4-year, 6-nation war that has killed an estimated 2.5 million people, most from war-induced disease and starvation. Despite a series of peace accords, fighting between rebel groups has persisted in the east of mineral-rich central African country.

Tornado kills 164 in central Congo |CNN
United States
The space shuttle Columbia, with 7 astronauts aboard, breaks up as it descends over central Texas toward a planned landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A Bush administration official says the shuttle's altitude—over 200,000 feet—makes it "highly unlikely" that the incident is the result of a terrorist act. NASA officials at the Johnson Space Center in Houston lost contact with the shuttle about 9 a.m. EST; it had been expected to touch down at about 9:16 a.m. EST. Columbia was the oldest of NASA's shuttle fleet, first launched in 1981. It was on its 28th mission. The shuttle underwent an extensive, 17-month overhaul that began in September, 1999. It rejoined the shuttle fleet in February, 2001 and flew its first mission after the upgrades in March, 2002.

Columbia shuttle breaks up over Texas |CNN
British Columbia
A massive avalanche in British Columbia kills 7 teenagers, including 6 boys and 1 girl. A wall of snow a third of a mile (500 metres) wide buries some of the teens as deep as 10 feet (3 metres) with a force powerful enough to topple railway cars. Rescuers pull free another 10 skiers and guides. The avalanche occurs less than 2 weeks after an avalanche on January 20 in the same area at nearby Durrand Glacier that kills 4 Canadians and 3 Americans, including champion snowboarder Craig Kelly.

Avalanche deaths spur call for better safety |CNN
A crowded passenger train collides with a freight train carrying flammable liquid in northwestern Zimbabwe, killing at least 40 people. Hundreds are inured as both trains explode in flames. The southbound freight train and the passenger train, which was en route to the northwestern resort town of Victoria Falls, collide near the coal mining center of Hwange. Local radio reports the accident occurs at approx. 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) near Dete, 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of the popular tourist resort of Victoria Falls.

Zimbabwe train crash kills 40 |CNN
A 6.5 earthquake shakes the remote and mountainous region of Tunceli in eastern Turkey, killing 1 and injuring 6. The epicentre of the earthquake is at Pulumur at 7.25 a.m. (0426 GMT), an area about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) east of the capital Ankara, which is thinly populated. Aftershocks of 3.1 magnitude on the Richter scale are recorded in the surrounding area raising fears for the safety of residents in nearby villages.

One dead in Turkish earthquake |CNN
French and Italian passenger trains collide in an Alpine tunnel in southeast France on Monday, killing 2 people and injuring 10 others. The two trains slam into each other in the Biona Tunnel near the Italian border at 11:15 a.m. The confined area of the crash site makes rescue operations difficult.

Trains crash in Alpine tunnel |CNN
Drought, AIDS and preventable disease put millions of Africans at risk of starvation. People in southern Africa and the Horn of Africa stand to suffer most, officials say. Hardest hit are the Horn of Africa, where about 17.9 million people face severe food shortages, and southern Africa, where 16.41 million are at risk. In Ethiopia, the U.N. agency expects to provide food aid to 11.3 million people in 2003, but that number could rise to 14.3 million people by year's end. The problem is compounded by AIDS and treatable diseases—such as diarrhea, pneumonia and tuberculosis—that destroy the lives of people needed to help communities recover from drought and natural disasters, according to U.N. officials.

Silently, starvation stalks millions in Africa |CNN
India, Bangladesh
& Nepal
On January 26th, India's eastern Bihar state declares "a national calamity" and begins distributing 2 million blankets and wood worth 300 million rupees ($6.25 million) to hundreds of thousands of homeless. Temperatures dip to 3.4 degrees Celsius (38 degrees Fahrenheit) in Bangladesh's northwestern Rajshahi district—the coldest in 35 years. As a month-long cold wave hammers parts of India, Bangladesh and Nepal, more than 1,830 people, many of them poor or homeless, have died of the cold. On January 21st, 39 more die overnight in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and on January 26th, another 12 are reported. The death toll in India has reached 1,005 since the bitterly cold weather and icy Himalayan winds began in mid-December. On January 26th, 23 more die overnight in Bangladesh, 9 more in Nepal, where a total of 783 people have died of the cold since December 20.

India's deadly winter a 'national calamity' |CNN
Poor hit hard in S. Asia's big freeze |CNN
The Mexican government declares a state of emergency for the coastal state of Colima as authorities sift through the ruins of buildings, looking for victims of a powerful earthquake that kills 29 people and injures 160. The quake, which U.S. experts estimate to be 7.8 in magnitude, hits the agricultural state of Colima the hardest, killing at least 21 people in the capital, Colima. Mexican officials report two others die in the state of Jalisco. The Geological Survey reports the quake was centered near the Pacific Coast around Colima, about 30 miles east-southeast of the city of Manzanillo. It strikes at 8:06 p.m. local time (9:06 p.m. EST), and is felt more than 300 miles away in the capital, Mexico City, where buildings sway and residents gather in the streets as a precaution. Damage is also reported in the state of Michoacan, and the USGS warns that the quake "may have caused substantial damage and casualties due to its location and size." It is the largest earthquake in this general area since a magnitude 8.0 event on October 9, 1995, which killed at least 49 people and caused extensive damage in Colima and Jalisco.

Mexican quake death toll rises to 29:
Authorities search rubble for more victims
Deadly quake shakes Mexico |CNN
British Columbia
An avalanche on Durrand Glacier in the Selkirk mountain range kills 7 backcountry skiers; injures 1; 13 escape injury.

Dense fog slows investigation of deadly
Canberra, Australia's capital, is declared under a state of emergency as firefighters struggle with 62 ferocious bushfires (20 burning out of control) that kill 4 people, injure 100's, burn 530 homes, and force thousands to evacuate. Fires also destroy the historic Mt. Stromlo Observatory including 5 telescopes, a workshop, 8 staff homes and the observatory's main dome; the bill for the observatory alone is expected to top $12 million. High winds sparked spot fires up to seven kilometers (four miles) ahead of the main fire front, around 270 km (170 miles) northeast of Melbourne. After a week of fire-fighting, nearly 4,000 firefighters remain on high alert.

Fires in Canberra destroy world-renowned
Australian fire threat shifts south |CNN
Canberra sifts through rubble |CNN
State of emergency in Australian capital |CNN
Torrential rains cause avalanches that destroy dozens of houses on hillside shantytowns in southeastern Brazil. Thirty-three confirmed dead in Minas Gerais state and three others in neighboring Espirito Santo state.

Brazil mudslides deathtoll rises to 36 |CNN
Cyclone Ami hits the South Pacific kingdom of Tonga, flooding towns, cutting telephone lines, and causing extensive damage to banana and coconut plantations. Winds gusting up to 63 knots (117 kph) cause 2 ships to collide in the high seas. 11 casualties reported, as many as 27 feared dead.

Dozens feared dead in Fiji |CNN
Fiji Cyclone |ReliefWeb
Fiji—Cyclone Ami |CIDI
A cold wave sweeps across South Asia, claiming nearly 1,300 lives. In Bangladesh, 79 more people are killed overnight by the cold weather that has chilled the country since mid-December, bringing the death toll to more than 740.

India Cold Wave |ReliefWeb
India Cold Wave |CIDI
Tans Airliner crashes into Andes mountain range, 10 miles northwest of the town of Chachapoyas; all 46 passengers killed. Pilot error is named as cause of crash.

Wreckage found; all on plane died
in crash
|Washington Times
North Carolina,
US Airways Flight 5481 crashes at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in North Carolina; 19 passengers and 2 crewmembers killed.

FAA orders airline to check 43 planes |CNN
Turkish Airlines Flight 634, carrying 80 people, crashes on approach to Diyarbakir Airport during extremely foggy weather; 75 are killed; 5 survive, including 1 crew member.

Turkish Airlines plane crashes |CNN
Cyclone Delfina causes heavy flooding & windstorms in Nampula province and Malawi, leaving 8 dead and displacing thousands.

Mozambique Floods |ReliefWeb
Mozambique Floods |CIDI
El Nino conditions bring heavy rains, causing the San Julian and Chutacagua rivers to overflow, affecting several areas in the Departments of Cochabamba (4 communities) and Santa Cruz (13 communities). 1, 300 families (approximately 6,500 people) are affected; damage to roads and bridges causes isolation of some communities; damage to crops estimated up to 80%.

Bolivia Floods |ReliefWeb
Bolivia Floods |CIDI
Tanzanian ferry sinks in Indian Ocean, resulting in 41 deaths.

Ferry sinks, at least 41 dead |iafrica
. . . . . . . . . .

Timeline Sources: BBC News, Centers for Disease Control, CNN, ReliefWeb, Reuters, iafrica.com, World Health Organization

Additional resources:
Major Disasters Worldwide: 2002

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