Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

25 January – 31 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.


25 Jan 1990: Children killed in devastating storm – At least 45 people, some of them children, died in the worst weather to hit England and Wales since the 1987 storm. Hurricane-force winds gusting in from the south-west brought chaos with many railway stations, roads and ports forced to close and some flights to major airports in England were diverted. The severe weather also affected other parts of Europe, killing at least 21 people in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, and caused disruption and damage in West Germany. The number of people killed in Britain is believed to be higher than that in 1987 because the storm struck during the day. But fewer trees were damaged this time – in October 1987, 15 million were blown down because many still had their leaves.

25 Jan 1990: Avianca Boeing 707 crashed in Cove Neck, New York on Long Island after running out of fuel causing 73 deaths.

25 Jan 1999: Colombia quake leaves hundreds dead – At least 300 people have been killed and 1,000 have been injured in an earthquake in Colombia, South America. It was the most powerful quake to hit Colombia for 16 years, measuring six on the Richter scale. Aftershocks were felt as far a field as the capital, Bogota.

28 Jan 1986: Seven dead in space shuttle disaster – The American space shuttle, Challenger, exploded killing all seven astronauts on board.
The five men and two women – including the first teacher in space – were just over a minute into their flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida when the Challenger blew up.

30 Jan 1958: Two trains in collided in fog, one having missed danger signals at Dagenham East killing 10 people.

30 Jan 1990: Greek cement freighter sank off the Isle of Wight in a storm.  All 19 crew drowned.

31 Jan 1953: 130 die in ferry disaster – A car ferry has sunk in the Irish Sea in one of the worst gales in living memory claiming the lives of more than 130 passengers and crew. The Princess Victoria, a British Railways car ferry, bound for Larne in Northern Ireland, had left Stranraer on the south-west coast of Scotland an hour before when the stern gates to the car deck were forced open in heavy seas. Among the passengers who perished were the Northern Ireland Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Major J M Sinclair, and Sir Walter Smiles, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.

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