Disasters and accidents frequently occur in construction sites due to the lack of safety precautions and harsh environments. There were several construction occurrences which have transpired in the past with over thousands of death. Here are few of the deadliest development projects in history which cost the lives of many workers.

  1. Burma-Siam Railway (1942-1943)

The Japanese built the Burma-Siam Railway or commonly known as the “Death Railway” during the World War II to support the troops and to provide supplies in Myanmar. It is a 415-kilometer railway which connected Bangkok, Mawlamyine (formerly Moulmein), and Burma along the KhwaeNoi River. The Japanese forced hundreds of thousand Asian armies and 30,000 British, 18,000 Dutch, 13,000 Australians, and 700 Americans which made up the 60,000 allied Prisoners of War (POWs). An approximate of 12,400 prisoners suffered and died from starvation, malnutrition, diseases, inhumane treatment from the Japanese.


  1. Panama Canal (1880-1914)

The Panama Canal is an 82-kilometer waterway that interconnects two massive oceans of Atlantic and Pacific along the Isthmus of Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal was a strategic approach to minimize the voyage of ships from different continents. French started the project, but they later stopped in the 1800s due to the relatively high statistics of 25,000 deaths from fever and malaria. In 1904, the United States took over with the construction, yet 5,600 more death occurred with a total of 30,600 deceased workers all throughout the project phase.

  1. Hawks Nest Tunnel (1927)

Many people considered the Hawk Nest Tunnel disaster as “one of the worst industrial disasters in the United States” which cost the lives of approximately 2,000 workers. The chief purpose of the construction was to improve the electricity generation of the New River by diverting the water flow into the three-mile tunnel through Gauley Mountain. The workers found extreme levels of silica on the mountain rock, and the Americans asked them to mine the mineral without safety equipment like masks or respirators. The incident led to the death of thousands of Nest workers due to acute silicosis caused by overexposure to silica dust.

  1. White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal (1931)

The 227-kilometer project which connects the White Sea in Russia to Lake Onega minimizes the nautical miles of ships from St. Petersburg to Arkhangelsk by 2,500 miles. An estimated 126,000 labor force of Gulag prisoners constructed the canal by coercion, and around 12,000 individuals died due to hunger, anguish, malnutrition, and plague.