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Guadalajara Sewer Explosion due to Corrosion

An example of corrosion damages with shared responsibilities was the sewer explosion that killed 215 people in Guadalajara, Mexico, in April 1992. Besides the fatalities, the series of blasts damaged 1,600 buildings and injured 1,500 people.

At least nine separate explosions were heard, starting at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time. They were said to have ripped a jagged trench that runs almost 2 km. The expanded trench was said to be contiguous with the city sewer system, and the open holes thought to be at least six meters deep and three meters across. (photo courtesy of Josť M. Malo, Electrical Research Institute, Mexico)

A single pit in a gasoline line running over a sewer line was enough to create great havoc to a city, killing 215 people

In several locations, much larger craters of fifty meters in diameter were evident with numerous vehicles buried or toppled into them. An eyewitness said that a bus was "swallowed up by the hole". The 1992 explosion in Guadalajara took place in the downtown district of Analco. Numerous gasoline explosions in the sewer system during a period of four hours destroyed kilometers of streets; in particular, Gante street was the most damaged. (reference)

 The first cause of the disaster was a galvanized steel pipeline that was occluding in a humid environment with a steel gasoline pipeline. Both of them corroded, and gasoline leaked through the holes, right into the main sewer.

The second cause of the disaster was a U-shaped siphon in the sewer needed to duck under a recently built underground railway. The design allowed fluids to pass through, but also blocked the fumes. There should have been a siphon for the fumes passing over the underground railway. Inhabitants had been complaining for several days about the heavy gasoline smell, but despite the measurements and the imminent threat of explosion, the authorities refused to evacuate.

Damage costs were estimated at 75 million U.S. dollars. The sewer explosion was traced to the installation of a water pipe, by a contractor several years before the explosion, that leaked water on a gasoline line laying underneath. The subsequent corrosion of the gasoline pipeline, in turn, caused leakage of gasoline into the sewers. The Mexican attorney general sought negligent homicide charges against four officials of Pemex, the government-owned oil company. Also cited were three representatives of the regional sewer system and the city's mayor.

Other corrosion accidents: Aloha, Bhopal, Carlsbad, Davis-Besse, Guadalajara, EL AL, Erika, F-16, FAC, Flixborough, Gaylord Chemical, Oil pipeline releases, Pitting of aircraft and helicopters, Prudhoe Bay, Silver bridge, Swimming Pool