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10 Worst Building Collapses in the World


Architects and engineers must watch out—a building collapse can result from a terrorist jet attack or a simple cup of morning tea! The architectural and structural engineering world is filled with failures—some are minor and even make you laugh; others, such as building collapses, are tragic and deadly.

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©Mr. Williams Photography

10 Worst Building Collapses in the History of Architecture

Even though many artificially constructed structures are awe-inspiring works of art, disasters caused by human error, careless safety protocols, and neglected building regulations are all too real threats. Let’s look at some of the deadliest building collapses throughout history.

Arch2O- 10 Worst Building Collapses in the World#0

©NIST/dpa/Picture Alliance

Number of Victims: 2,977 deaths

-Constructed: 1973

-Collapsed: 11/09/2001

-Cause: Struck by two hijacked commercial airliners.

No doubt, the collapse of the Twin Towers during the September 11 attacks is the most traumatizing of all building collapses. The Twin Towers were masterfully built: the structure comprised lightweight steel, a central core, and a structured system that supported itself even if one column failed.

This mastered design gave some time for the building before it collapsed as the towers were designed to bear 5,000 tons of lateral wind load, which is way more than the jets’ weight—however, the 90,000 gallons of burning jet fuel is what eventually weakened the building, causing the floor slaps to fall one after another. Once the floors started to collapse, it took 10 seconds for the towers to drop.

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Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Collection

Building Collapse Arch2O

©Commons Wikimedia

-Number of Victims: 502 deaths and 937 injuries

-Constructed: 1989

-Collapsed: 29/06/1995

-Cause: Structural Overload, Punching Shear

This case is the complete opposite of a masterfully engineered building—all these killed and injured were the victims of criminal negligence and extreme disrespect to ethical engineering practices leading to the most devastating building collapse in the history of South Korea.

The Sampoong Department Store was changed from an office building to a department store halfway through construction! Ignoring all the industrial design requirements in terms of structural engineering. This negligence resulted in extensive cracks that were noticed but neglected, causing the building to pop and crack and then collapse with 1,500 employees inside it.

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Number of Victims: One Person Died

-Constructed: 2009

-Collapsed: 27/06/2009

-Cause: Heavy rain saturated the site soil with water

On June 27, 2009, Block 7, one of eleven 13-story apartment buildings making up the Lotus Riverside compound in Shanghai, just fell as it is, lying flat. The building collapsed while it was still under construction, and fortunately, most of the workers escaped the site when they sensed the building was about to collapse, except for one worker who sadly did not.

The compound’s site was proved to be unstable as another 272 feet-nearby riverbank collapsed. The development company, it turned out, had been working illegally for five years, raising huge concerns over building practices across China.

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©Seattle PI

-Number of Victims: 17 deaths

-Constructed: N/A

-Collapsed: 26/01/2012

-Cause: Illegal Renovations

The 20-story building crashed into another ten-story building and a smaller “three or four” story building—all three collapsed. The building collapses caused a wave of dust through the neighborhood, killing at least 17 people.

Luckily, the building collapsed at a late hour of the day, and the facilities were naturally empty of workers. It is suggested that illegal renovations and construction work weaken the 20-story building, causing it to collapse and bringing down two other smaller buildings to the ground.

  • A walkway at the Hyatt Regency, Kansas City, USA

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-Number of Victims: 114 deaths and 200 injuries

-Constructed: 1978-1980

-Collapsed: 17/07/1981

-Cause: Weight Distribution

While most building collapses are built on and noticed beforehand, the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Missouri, happened at once when the fourth-floor elevated walkway collapsed, falling onto another walkway two floors down and eventually into the lounge below.

The walkway was the architectural feature of the hotel—it was anchored by 1.5-inch steel rods. Still, the real issue lay in the change from a single set of hanger rods threaded through the upper walkways to a double-rod system anchored to the upper walkways themselves, adding immense and undue stress. The design could not meet the minimum safety requirements but had gone unnoticed in the building process, causing the walkway to collapse.

  • Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington, USA

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©Seattle Times

-Number of Victims: zero

-Constructed: 1940

-Collapsed: 07/11/1940

-Cause: Cheap Girders

This building collapse is one of the more catastrophic. When it opened in 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third-longest suspended bridge in the world—but it collapsed only four months later.

In an attempt to try to keep costs down, cheap girders were chosen, causing the bridge to buckle and sway along its suspended length -under regular wind forces! Due to the torsional motion, the bridge was subject to, the towers holding the spans were pulled inward, cracks formed, and finally, the entire bridge crashed into the river. Here is the actual footage of the bridge twisting and collapsing!

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-Number of Victims: 1,134 deaths and 2,500 injuries

-Constructed: N/A

-Collapsed: 24/04/2013

-Cause: Structural negligence and illegal construction works

The 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse -also referred to as the 2013 Savar building collapse or the Collapse of Rana Plaza- was a structural failure where an eight-story commercial building collapsed. It is considered “the deadliest non-deliberate structural failure accident in modern human history” and “the deadliest garment factory disaster in history.”

The building contained clothing factories, a bank, apartments, and several shops. The shops and the bank on the lower floors were immediately closed after cracks were discovered in the building. Unfortunately, the building’s owners ignored warnings to avoid using the building after cracks had appeared the day before. Garment workers were ordered to return the following day, and the building collapsed during the morning rush hour.

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©Research Gate

-Number of Victims: 4 deaths and 17 injuries

-Constructed: 1968

-Collapsed: 16/05/1968

-Cause: Gas Explosion

In East London, on May 16, 1968, a single match triggered the collapse of an entire corner of this massive 22-story building. Ivy Hodge, a 56-year-old cake decorator living on the 18th floor, got up early to make herself a cup of tea, and the spark from the match triggered a devastating gas explosion.

The load-bearing walls came apart, leaving the four apartments above the gas explosion without structural support. One by one, they came down, tearing through the floors below until an entire corner of the building lay in ruins.

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-Number of Victims

-Constructed: 1978

-Collapsed: 11/12/1993

-Cause: Landslide

A Landslide with the force of 200 jumbo jets slammed into the foundations of Block One of the Highland Towers apartment complex. Eyewitnesses described watching the building fall in “slow motion,” followed by “deafening silence.”

The landslide was not the actual reason for the building collapse, as the towers’ retaining walls and drainage system were poorly designed and maintained. Moreover, construction on a nearby site subjected the land to erosion, causing it to be weakened even more. Before the building collapsed, hefty rain put enormous pressure on the pipes, causing them to explode and saturating the soil with water. 

Ten days of non-stop rain put enormous pressure on the pipes. At various points on the hill, the pipes burst, and the water content of the soil rose to dangerous levels. Eventually, a landslip took down a large retaining wall.

  • Royal Plaza Hotel, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand

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Image via Bangkok Post

-Number of Victims 137 deaths and 227 injuries

-Constructed: N/A

-Collapsed: 13/08/1993

-Cause: Structural Deformation (Creep)

In less than 10 seconds, the Royal Plaza Hotel building collapsed and “transformed the 6-story complex into a pile of rubble”, leaving only the front elevator hall, which was separately built from the rest of the structure. Gradual deformation due to creep weakened all the ground floor support columns, and when one failed, the rest rapidly followed, resulting in an almost complete vertical collapse.

The main reason for the collapse was the addition of floors without adequately considering the strength of the structure and soil stability. There were many errors, including not strengthening foundations and columns and not assessing the power of the existing columns, which later culminated in one of the worst building collapses in Thailand.


How many buildings collapsed on 9/11 attacks?

In addition to the twin towers, a third, 47-story building, commonly referred to as “Tower Seven,” fell on the same day after seven hours.

What caused I 35 bridge collapse?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that a design deficiency was to blame for the bridge’s disastrous failure because an overly thin support plate tore along a line of rivets.

How did building 7 collapse?

Heavy wreckage struck 7 World Trade Center as the North Tower collapsed on September 11, 2001, causing damage to the south face of the tower and sparking fires that raged throughout the afternoon.

How many buildings collapsed in turkey?

More than 160,000 structures in Turkey either fell or suffered significant damage due to the quakes, prompting speculation as to whether or not human error contributed to the disaster’s severity.


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