Disasters - man made

Image: Deepwater Horizon fire– April 22 2010 by US Coast Guard on Flickr

We have selected these online resources to support you with information on man made disasters such as nuclear accidents, oil spills and the Great smog in London.SCIS 1702157

See also: Disasters – New ZealandDisaster preparedness/civil defence.

The Aral Sea Crisis

The Aral Sea in Central Asia was the world’s fourth largest salt lake up until the last quarter of the 20th century. Human induced changes have resulted in a dramatic reduction in its size and an increase in salinity.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

Chernobyl Accident 1986

Nuclear accidents have occurred at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima nuclear power plants. There is detailed information on the Chernobyl accident from the World Nuclear Association, and also links to the Three Mile Island and Fukushima accidents.

Suggested level: secondary

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was one of the world’s worst oil disasters. Ocean Portal pages from the Smithsonian Institute covers the initial discharge of oil, clean up attempts, and more.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary.


These pages include a timeline of New Zealand disasters as well as detailed information on the Tangiwai, Wahine, Erebus disasters, and the Ballantynes Department Store fire. The images, video and sound will be useful for younger students.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

Environmental Disasters

A summary of 10 important anthropogenic environmental disasters and how they came about.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Prior to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, the Exxon Valdez was the largest oil spill disaster in US waters. It occurred when the tanker Exxon Valdez hit a reef and poured 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Suggested level: secondary

The Great Smog of 1952

London was enveloped by a heavy smog that lasted several days in 1952. The UK Met Office has an article on how the Great Smog formed and the impact on the people of London.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate


To discover information on the school work site ManyAnswers use the search term Disasters (New Zealand) in the search box.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary

Rena oil spill

On 5 October 2011, the MV Rena grounded on Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef) in the Bay of Plenty which resulted in one of New Zealand's most significant maritime environmental disasters.

Suggested level: intermediate, secondary

Te Ara

Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, has information about man made disasters in New Zealand. It includes accidents involving transport, such as railways, aeroplanes, and shipwrecks, and mining disasters are also listed.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary


The EPIC databases provide comprehensive up-to-date information and articles on man made disasters. School login (username and password) is required.

Suggested level: primary, intermediate, secondary


Have you thought about using fiction with your class to support your topic? The following are some suggestions for you students (and you) to enjoy.

Roscoe and the pelican rescue, by Lynn Rowe Reed, 2011 (picture book)
Whale of a time, by Chris Kunz, 2010 (fiction)

Deepwater Horizon Blowout Animation. USCSB. Youtube 11.24

Exxon Valdez revisited. CBS News. Youtube. 3.03

Top ten man made disasters. WatchMojo.com. Youtube 6.31