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The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1978

Disasters in 1978


January 1 An Air India Boeing 747 exploded in midair and plunged into the Arabian Sea shortly after taking off from Bombay, India, killing all 213 persons aboard.

February 10 A Uruguayan Air Force DC-3 transport plane, returning to the Artigas, Uruguay, airport because of engine trouble, exploded and burst into flames about 350 yards short of the runway, killing all 31 persons aboard.

February 11 A Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 737 crashed and exploded at Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, while dodging a snowblower that blocked its landing path. The 7 survivors of the crash that claimed 41 lives were seated in the tail section, which dropped off the second time the airplane touched down on the runway.

March 1 A Nigerian Airways F-28 traveling from Sokoto to Kano, Nigeria, collided in midair with a Nigerian Air Force plane conducting a training flight. All 16 persons aboard the civilian plane were killed, as were the 2 crewmen on the military plane.

March 3 A Venezuelan Airlines 748 Hawker-Siddley en route to Cumana crashed into the Caribbean Sea moments after taking off from Caracas, Venezuela, killing all 47 persons aboard.

March 16 A Bulgarian Tupelov-134 en roue to Warsaw, Poland, exploded and plunged to the ground soon after taking off from Sofia, Bulgaria, killing all 73 persons aboard.

March 25 A Burmese airliner bound for Mandalay exploded shortly after taking off from Rangoon, Burma, killing all 48 persons aboard.

April 23 A chartered Pipe Navajo Chieftain carrying eight officials of the U.S. Auto Club to Indianapolis, Indiana, crashed in a cornfield near Rushville, Indiana, during heavy thunderstorms. All eight officials, as well as the pilot, were killed.

June 23 A chartered Beechcraft 80 crashed shortly after taking off from St. John's (Newfoundland, Canada) Airport. Eight members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and two crew members were killed.

June 26 A Sikorsky helicopter en route to the Stasfjord oil rig in the North Sea crashed into the sea. Thirteen persons were killed and 5 others of the 18 aboard were missing and presumed dead.

August 30 A Piper Navajo crashed moments after taking off from North Las Vegas, Nevada; all 10 persons aboard were killed.

September 2 An Otter airplane making its final approach to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, crashed into the basin of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. A caretaker for the club rescued the 2 survivors among the 13 persons aboard.

September 3 An Air Rhodesia Viscount was shot down by guerrillas of the Patriotic Front who claimed they thought the airplane crashed military personnel. Thirty-eight passengers were killed when the airplane crashed 35 miles from the Kariba (Rhodesia) Airport, and 10 of the 18 survivors were killed by guerrillas.

September 9 A chartered airplane carrying 19 passengers and a crew of 2 crashed in a mountainous region on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico. Seventeen passengers and 1 crew member were killed.

September 14 A Philippines presidential airplane trying to land at Manila, Philippines, during a torrential rain smashed through trees and houses and exploded in a fish pond one mile short of the runway, killing 9 persons on the ground and 15 of the 24 persons aboard the plane.

Pacific Southwest airliner on fire just before crashing September 25 A Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727 and a private airplane piloted by a student collided in midair and crashed into a San Diego, California, residential area. In addition to the 137 persons aboard the two aircraft, at least 10 persons on the ground were killed. [contemporary news accounts]

The Boeing 727 burst into flames after it collided with the private plane.

October 4 A Finnish Army DC-3 carrying 15 persons, including three members of Parliament, caught fire, exploded, and crashed into a lake moments after taking off from Kuopio, Finland; everyone aboard was killed.

October 6 A U.S. Navy C-118 crashed into a hill near Santiago, Chile, during heavy fog, killing all 18 persons aboard.

November 15 A chartered Icelandic Airlines DC-8 carrying Indonesian Muslims home from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, slammed through rubber and coconut plantations before crashing about four miles short of the airport at Colombo, Sri Lanka, during a thunderstorm. Seventy-nine persons survived the crash, but 183 others were killed.

November 19 An Indian Air Force AN-12 transport crashed while attempting to land on a mountain airfield in Kashmir State, India, killing all 77 persons aboard and 1 person on the ground.

December 23 An Alitalia DC-9 en route from Rome to Palermo, Italy, ditched in the Tyrrhenian Sea and sank; 103 of the 129 persons aboard were reported drowned.

December 28 A United Airlines DC-8 carrying 185 persons suddenly lost power after circling the Portland, Oregon, airport for some 45 minutes because of faulty landing gear and crash-landed in a residential area. Two homes were destroyed, but both were vacant at the time of the accident. Ten persons on the airplane were killed and 18 suffered serious injuries. [contemporary news account]


January 3 A fire that broke out in a Chinese Buddhist temple in Manila, Philippines, claimed the lives of 15 persons.

January 28 Sixteen persons were killed when fire swept through the historic Coates House hotel in Kansas City, Missouri.

February 24 A derailed railroad car loaded with liquid propane exploded while workers were preparing to transfer the gas to trucks. The blast destroyed two blocks of downtown Waverly, Tennessee, injured dozens of persons, and claimed the lives of 15 others. [contemporary news accounts]

February 27 A boiler explosion at a sawmill and plywood factory near Bangkok, Thailand, killed 21 persons and injured at least 40 others.

March 14 A fire started by rioting inmates at Villa Devoto Prison in Argentina killed at least 55 persons and injured some 70 others.

May 12 A fire that started in a leather worker's shop in a six-story office and shopping complex in Ankara, Turkey, killed 42 persons, some of whom jumped to their deaths.

June 10 A fire that swept through a five-story hotel in Boras, Sweden, claimed the lives of 20 teenagers celebrating their graduation from high school and injured 55 others.

July 5 A fire that started in the sleeping car of a passenger train traveling from Penzance to London, England, killed 11 passengers and injured more than 30 others.

July 9 A fast-burning fire swept through a crowded theater in downtown Manila, Philippines, killing 16 persons and injuring 70 others.

Tarragona explosion July 11 A tanker truck carrying about 1,500 cubic feet of propylene overturned on a bend in the road, rolled over a cement wall, and exploded in a coastal campsite near Tarragona, Spain. About 200 persons were killed and over 100 were severely burned.

July 14 No injuries were reported after heavy rain entering sodium containers caused an explosion at a factory at Trento, Italy, releasing a cloud of sodium hydroxide.

August 19 Arsonists poured gasoline on the floors of a packed movie theater in Abadan, Iran, then locked the theater doors and set the building afire with bombs. The fire claimed the lives of 430 persons. The arrested suspects were described as Muslim extremists who considered movie theaters as incompatible with Islamic teachings.

October 10 A drunken national guardsman doused a downtown Caracas, Venezuela, bar with gasoline and set a match to it after quarreling with two of the bar's patrons. Twenty-two persons were killed and 6 others were injured, many of whom were unable to get out of the building because the emergency exit was blocked by boxes.

October 12 At least 57 persons were killed and another 86 seriously injured by an explosion aboard a Greek oil tanker undergoing repairs at a Singapore shipyard.

November 2 At least 52 persons were killed when a natural gas pipeline explosion ripped through a business district near Villahermosa, Mexico.

November 5 An explosion and fire gutted a department store in a Des Moines, Iowa, shopping mall, and killed at least 10 persons. [contemporary news account]

November 5 Fire leveled the three-story Allen Motor Inn in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and killed 11 persons.

November 26 Fire destroyed a Holiday Inn in Greece, New York. At least 25 persons were injured, 6 seriously, and 10 others died after being trapped in rooms or hallways.

December 7 Eleven persons, including 7 children, were killed when an early morning fire swept through a three-story tenement in Newark, New Jersey.

December 9 An early morning dormitory fire at the Ellisville (Mississippi) State School for the mentally retarded killed 15 women patients who were overcome by heat and smoke.


January 21 A Singapore-registered freighter sank off the southwest coast of Japan. Three Japanese navy vessels rescued 12 crewmen but reported 10 dead and 3 missing.

February 17 A freighter and two fishing boats sank off the east coast of Korea, and seven other fishing boats overturned or went aground when snowstorms created heavy seas. A total of 54 persons were believed drowned.

Amoco Cadiz
cleaning up oil from the Amoco Cadiz
March 17 The 230,000-ton tanker Amoco Cadiz, carrying a capacity load of 1.6 million barrels of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to England, broke in half in heavy seas after striking rocks 3 miles off the coast of Brittany, France. Within a few days strong winds and high-cresting waves drove the oil onto some 70 miles of Brittany's beaches. The accident was ultimately blamed on a malfunction in the ship's steering equipment and the inability of a West German rescue tug to control the tanker in rough seas. The American-owned ship was on charter to an affiliate of the Royal Dutch/Shell group at the time.

The bow and midsection of the Amoco Cadiz were all that remained above water after the ship broke in half.

Residents of Brittany struggle to rid their beaches of as much spilled oil as possible.

March 22 Twenty persons were killed when a boat capsized on the flooded Zambezi River in Mozambique.

April 4 As many as 1,000 persons were believed drowned when a fleet of 100 cargo ships sank in the Bay of Bengal during a violent storm.

April 8 A boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal, killing at least half of the 200 passengers aboard.

April 21 An overloaded launch capsized in the Ghorautra River some 200 miles northeast of Dacca, Bangladesh. At least 100 of the 600 persons aboard drowned.

May 24 A passenger launch capsized on the Jamuna River in Bangladesh during a storm, killing 30 of the 200 persons aboard.

June 11 A canoe excursion on Lake Timiskaming, in Ontario, Canada, was hit by violent thunderstorms accompanied by high winds and four-foot waves. Thirteen of the 31 persons on the trip, including one teacher and 12 students from St. John's School in Claremont, Ontario, drowned when their canoes capsized.

June 17 The two-tiered paddlewheel showboat Whipporwill was flipped over by a tornado on Lake Pomona, near Topeka, Kansas, throwing most of the 46 passengers and 13 crewmembers overboard. Fifteen passengers were killed and 14 others were injured, 2 seriously. [contemporary news account]

the Whipporwill after the disaster

the Whipporwill after the disaster

July 20 A small motorboat capsized near Taejon, South Korea, while carrying 17 children to school. Three boys and the skipper of the boat swam to safety but 14 others drowned.

October 4 The 1,598-ton Algerian ship Colo sank after colliding with the 8,390-ton Italian Expresso Marilyn in the Mediterranean Sea. Twenty-six of the 30 crewmen aboard the Colo were missing and presumed drowned.

October 20 The 125-foot Coast Guard cutter Cuyahoga sank in 70 feet of water minutes after colliding with the 521-foot Argentine coal freighter Santa Cruz II in Chesapeake Bay. The Coast Guard was unable to rescue 11 of the 29 crew members of the Cuyahoga.

November 22 A boat packed with Vietnamese refugees sank in the Kuala Tregganu Estuary off the coast of Malaysia after it was forced back to sea by Malaysian police and villagers. Some 200 persons were reportedly drowned.

December 2 A boat packed with Vietnamese refugees sank in the South China Sea after having been denied permission to land in Malaysia. At least 143 persons were believed drowned.

December 21 A ferry carrying 30 passengers and 2 crewmen sank in heavy seas after it broke apart on rocks off Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. Twelve persons were missing and presumed dead.

December 28 The 315-foot Greek freighterTenorga sank near the entrance to the port of Leix­es, Portugal, during a violent storm. Four persons were known dead and 17 others were missing.

December 31 The Greek supertanker Andros Patria cracked in heavy seas and gale force winds off the coast of northwestern Spain. Twenty-nine of the persons aboard took to the lifeboats, but drowned in the rough waters, while the other 3 were rescued by a helicopter.

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The Robinson Library >> In The Year... >> 1978

This page was last updated on December 24, 2017.