Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

17 January to 24 January in history

Thankfully major emergencies are relatively rare. However, they do occur and if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past it is important to learn the lessons of history.


The safety of: football stadia; entertainment events; journeys by rail, air and sea transport; and many other aspects of daily life has dramatically improved because we have learnt from the disasters of the past.  This will include everything from the designing out of much of the risk (e.g. aircraft construction) through to the ability of the emergency services and other agencies to work more effectively when an emergency does occur. 

Our ‘this week in history’ feature contains disasters and tragedies that have occurred across the world from 1950 to 2009.  As the website develops, we will increasingly link these events to the lessons learned and recommendations included in public reports and enquiries.


17 Jan 1994: Earthquake hits Los Angeles – A huge earthquake rocked Los Angeles, killing more than 20 people.  The earthquake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and lasted for 40 seconds, struck at 0431 local time (1231 GMT).

17 Jan 1995: Earthquake devastates Kobe – Hundreds of people are feared dead and thousands injured after a powerful earthquake struck Japan at dawn.  Worst hit was the port of Kobe, a city of 1.5 million. The earthquake measured 7.2 magnitude and was the biggest to hit Japan for 47 years.

23 Jan 1955: Express train crashes killing 14 in Sutton Coldfield – Fourteen people were killed and dozens injured when an express train travelling from York to Bristol derailed and overturned at Sutton Coldfield station. The accident happened at approximately 1615 GMT. The train, which was carrying about 300 passengers, had been diverted via Sutton Coldfield from its usual route through Tamworth because of essential maintenance to tracks. A spokesperson for British Railways said nine out of 10 carriages were derailed as the train passed through Sutton Coldfield station.

23 Jan 1989: Many killed in Tajik earthquake – Hundreds of people feared dead after a powerful earthquake struck the Soviet Central Asian republic of Tajikistan.  It was the second earthquake to rock the southern Soviet Union in two months. The earlier quake hit Armenia – about 1,000 miles (1,600km) to the west – killing an estimated 25,000 people. The epicentre of the latest quake affected an area about 19 miles (30km) from the capital, Dushanbe, in the early hours of the morning.  All 600 inhabitants of Sharora are believed to have died.  The official Soviet news agency, Tass, says, 1,000 people may have been killed.

23 Jan 1998: Students killed in Avalanche – 1000ft long wall of snow swept away a group of school children and their guides trekking in the French Alps.  9 students, 2 teachers died.  Nine other students/2 adults injured.

24 Jan 1966: 117 die in Air India tragedy – Up to 117 people were killed after an Air India Boeing 707 crashed near the summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps. The plane was on a regular Bombay to New York flight when the accident happened at around 0800 local time.  All 106 passengers and 11 crew were killed on the aircraft as it prepared to land at Geneva airport in Switzerland.

24 Jan 1984: The Radiant Med freighter capsized and sank in gale force winds in the English Channel.  16 seamen drowned.

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