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Where Does BP Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico Rank Amongst Worst Disasters in History?

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water cooler         logoThe Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill also known as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, is officially the worst man-made disaster in United States history.

Three and a half weeks have gone by and the powers to be at British Petroleum have failed miserably at coming up with an adequate solution to stop an oil leak a mile below the ocean's surface in the Gulf of Mexico.  With each passing day they attempt to reassure the American people that they are working diligently to stop the bleeding.  And, as another day goes by, several thousand barrels of oil gush out of the oil geyser. 

First there was a half-baked plan by BP to lower a gigantic metal box upon the leak. BP Oil Leak Thereby they would collect oil from the box and syphon it up through a tube. This turned out to be a massive boondoggle.

BP's latest "fix" is what's called a "top kill" method where they attempt to seal the leak with mud.  And, upon covering it with mud they'll attempt to patch the pile of mud with concrete.  Let's not forget they're going to attempt this at a mile below the ocean's surface where water pressure is beyond human comprehension.  To put it into perspective, water pressure at a mile below the ocean's surface is 2,500 pounds per square inch.  A scientist from USC estimates the upward pressure of the oil gushing out to be 9,000 pounds per inch.  Therefore, we're talking a 6,500 pound difference in terms of the force of the oil gushing out.  This top kill method has a 60-70% rate of success according to BP officials. 

Adm. Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard said the top kill effort appears to be working so far and the leak is "almost capped."  According to British Petroleum however, it's inconclusive if the attempts are working.  Once again you hear conflicting stories depending on who is quoted.

You can still view a live video feed of the oil leak as they attempt to plug it up.

Rather than rehash what's already been said a million times over about this disaster, let's look at how the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill measures up against other major disasters in recorded history. 

May 2008 - The death toll from Cyclone Nargis remains uncertain but has been put at 140,000 or more. Caught with nowhere to run, residents of low-lying rice fields in Maynmar were simply swept away.

October 2005 - Magnitude-7.6 earthquake in Pakistan killed more than 40,000 people. The destruction was due in part to the quake's shallow origin.

August 2005 - Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and is the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. It's effects can still be felt to this day in New Orleans.

December 2004 - The 9.3 magnitude Indian Ocean earthquake and the subsequent Sumatran tsunami, estimated to have killed more than 225,000 people. It affected a wider region and more people than any other modern natural disaster.

August 1992 - Hurricane Andrew killed 26 people, but property damages were $25 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history at the time.

Gulf Oil SpillMarch 1989 - Exxon Valdez Oil Spill off the coast of Alaska which resulted in 10.8 million gallons of oil being spilled along the Alaskan cost.  1,300 miles in coastline were affected.

July 1976 - Tangshan earthquake in China, a magnitude-8 earthquake, killed between 255,000 and 655,000 people.

1931 - Yellow River flood, is estimated to have killed between 1 million to 3.7 million people via drowning, disease, famines, and droughts.

1737 - Calcutta India Typhoon- killed 300,000 people. Once thought to have been an earthquake, scientists now believe it was a typhoon.

1556 - Shaanzi, China earthquake - killed 830,000. Nobody knows the seismic magnitude.

1330-1351 - The Black Death or Bubonic Plague, a pandemic caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis, killed an estimated 75 million people, which killed Black Deathbetween 30 to 60 percent of Europe's population.

1138 - Aleppo earthquake in Syria, which killed about 230,000 people. It is listed by the U.S. Geological Survey as the fourth deadliest earthquake of all time.

1500 B.C., or so - The Mediterranean Stroggli island blew up and a tsunami virtually wiped out Minoan civilization.

The common denominator amongst these aforementioned disasters is that there was a huge loss of life-with the exception of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.  While there isn't a huge loss of life attributed to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill of 2010, the envioronmental impact is astounding. And, it will mark the costliest man-made disaster in U.S. history.  The intitial Oil Rig Explosion claimed the lives of 11 people. 

Hundreds upon hundreds of miles of the coastline will be affected when it's all said and done.  Let's remember that this has been leaking for nearly a month now, so the residual effects won't be felt immediately.  So far the oil slick covers an area of 2,500 square miles. 

Experts fear that due to factors such as petroleum toxicity and oxygen depletion, it will result in an environmental disaster.  Thus, the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry, tourism industry, and habitat of hundreds of bird species will all be affected tremendously.

So far, 23% of Lousiana's 2.3 billion dollar fishing and oyster industry has been shut down as a result of the Oil Spill. Louisiana has a low unemployment rate compared to the rest of the nation, but many expect it to skyrocket above 10% (currently it's under 7%). 

It will take years perhaps decades for the Gulf Coast to recover from this catastrophe.

BP Oil Spill photos from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/