, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 285-300
Date: 27 Feb 2011

Industrial accidents triggered by earthquakes, floods and lightning: lessons learned from a database analysis

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Abstract

Natural hazards and disasters can cause major accidents in chemical and process installations. These so-called Natech accidents can result in hazardous-materials releases due to damage to process and storage units, or pipes. In order to understand the dynamics of Natech events, accidents triggered by earthquakes, floods and lightning recorded in industrial accident databases were analysed. This allowed the identification of the most vulnerable equipment types, their modes of failure due to natural-event impact and the final accident scenarios. Moreover, lessons learned for future accident prevention and mitigation were derived. The analysis showed that pipes and storage tanks are the most vulnerable equipment for earthquakes, floods and lightning, calling for more research of equipment behaviour under natural-event loading. The damage modes and states are strongly dependent on the characteristics of the impacting natural event. Toxic dispersion, fires and explosions were observed as a consequence of all three types of analysed natural events. In the case of floods, two additional scenarios were identified. These are water contamination and the formation of toxic and/or flammable vapours upon reaction of the released chemicals with the floodwaters. The overall number of recorded Natech accidents was found to range from 2 to 5% of all reported accidents in the analysed databases.