Top 10 Biggest Explosions Ever Recorded
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Top 10 Biggest Explosions Ever Recorded

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These explosions rocked the world...literally. For this list, we'll be looking at the largest explosions throughout human history measured in terms of magnitude and yield. Our countdown includes The 2020 Beirut Explosion, The Halifax Explosion, The N1 Launch Explosion, and more!

10 of the biggest explosions ever recorded

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at 10 of the biggest explosions ever recorded.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the largest explosions throughout human history measured in terms of magnitude and yield. For the sake of variety, we will be excluding atomic bombs for the most part, but not entirely.

What do you make of these history-making events? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: The Evangelos Florakis Naval Base Explosion

In the early morning hours of July 11, 2011, an explosion ripped through the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base, which was situated on the island of Cyprus. The base had improperly stored a large number of dangerous military materials, including gunpowder and artillery shells. Various containers exploded and started a small fire, which in turn resulted in the larger explosion. With the equivalent of 481 tons of TNT, the explosion ripped through the base, killed 13, injured 62, and decimated the nearby Vasilikos Power Station. Half of Cyprus was left without power, and the explosion could be heard upwards of 30 miles away. It also cost upwards of $3 billion in damage, which further devastated the island’s already-crippled economy.

#9: The N1 Launch Explosion

The N1 was a Soviet rocket that was hastily constructed in the midst of the space race. The rocket went through four launches, and each resulted in failure. The problems were numerous, including underfunding and rushed construction. The second launch occurred on July 3, 1969 and resulted in an unmitigated disaster. Shortly after takeoff, the rocket tilted 45 degrees and plunged back down to Earth. The propellant on board instigated a massive explosion that sent debris rocketing up to six miles away and shattering windows across the complex. With the force of 650 tons of TNT, the launch complex was turned into a fiery crater. Luckily, the rocket was unmanned and no serious injuries were reported.

#8: The SS Grandcamp Explosion

Nestled beside Galveston Bay is the city of, well, Texas City. An industrial port town, Texas City once housed a vessel called the SS Grandcamp that inadvertently launched an incredible explosion. A fire started inside the SS Grandcamp on the morning of April 16, 1947 and ignited the ship’s stores of ammonium nitrate. The ship exploded with the force of 790 tons of TNT, sending shrapnel hurling into the air at supersonic speeds. Thousands of nearby buildings were leveled, airplanes were knocked out of the sky, and everything within a 2,000 foot radius was destroyed. The explosion resulted in more than 560 deaths, with 145 coming from the nearby Monsanto Chemical Company, which was demolished in the accident.

#7: The 2020 Beirut Explosion

Ammonium nitrate is incredibly dangerous, and history repeated itself 73 years after the Texas City disaster. Large quantities of the substance were improperly stored at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, and in the evening of August 4, 2020, they exploded with the force of 800 tons of TNT. This explosion was captured by countless cameras and quickly spread throughout social media. It left behind a crater 140 feet deep and caused $15 billion in damage throughout Beirut. The explosion registered as a seismic event and could be physically felt throughout parts of Europe. It was even heard up to 150 miles away on the island of Cyprus in Greece.

#6: The DuPont Plant Explosion

Back in the early 20th century, the village of Pleasant Prairie in Wisconsin hosted a DuPont chemical factory that was notorious for accidents. The worst of all came on March 9, 1911, when an explosion ripped through the factory with the force of 1.1 kilotons of TNT. It left behind a crater 100 feet deep, leveled most of the village, and could be felt more than 130 miles away. Police in Chicago even believed that their city had experienced a bombing, so loud and concussive was the explosion. The explosion was traced to the DuPont factory, which was housing over 100,000 kegs of blasting powder and 300 tons of dynamite.

#5: The Oppau Explosion

If there’s one thing to glean from this list, it’s that ammonium nitrate really needs to be stored correctly. Back in 1921, a mixture of nitrate and sulfate was being stored in the town of Oppau, Germany. On the morning of September 21, this mixture exploded with the force of 1.5 kilotons of TNT. It left behind a crater three-quarters of a mile wide and could be heard in Munich over 200 miles away. Most of the town was destroyed in the explosion, and it shattered glass in nearby towns. About 10 miles north of Oppau is Worms Cathedral, which was built throughout the 1100s. The church contained authentic Medieval glass windows, but they were all blown out in the explosion.

#4: The Port Chicago Disaster

On the night of July 17, 1944, military servicemen were loading munitions onto the SS E. A. Bryan, which was bound for the Pacific Theater. Unfortunately, this resulted in what is now known as the Port Chicago disaster. With the force of nearly two kilotons of TNT, the munitions exploded and sent debris rocketing miles into the sky. Nearby ships were torn apart like paper and flung into the ocean, and most of the surrounding area was completely obliterated. The explosion measured 3.4 on the Richter scale and caused the modern equivalent of $145 million in damages. 320 people died in the explosion, including civilians. This made it the largest loss of civilian life on American soil in World War II.

#3: The RAF Fauld Explosion

To this day, the RAF Fauld disaster remains the largest explosion to have occurred on British soil. In the late morning of November 27, 1944, munitions held in an underground storage depot exploded with the force of two kilotons of TNT. Luckily, the depot was in the middle of nowhere, so damage and death was limited. Still, the explosion completely decimated nearby farms and destroyed a water reservoir, which in turn caused extensive flooding throughout the area. A mushroom cloud was sent miles into the sky and was observed by nearby civilians. The resulting crater covers an area of 12 acres and can still be seen today in the village of Hanbury.

#2: The Halifax Explosion

The little Canadian province of Nova Scotia is home to the largest non-nuclear explosion in human history. It occurred on the morning of December 6, 1917. The cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc collided with the SS Imo, which started a fire aboard the Mont-Blanc. This fire ignited the on-board munitions, resulting in a historic explosion. It hit with the force of three kilotons of TNT and completely leveled the surrounding area. Casualties numbered at least 1,782, and many lost their sight from the intensity of the flash. The smoke rose two miles into the sky, and the explosion caused a 60-foot tsunami that washed the SS Imo ashore. Put simply, it was unlike anything that humanity had experienced at the time.

#1: Tsar Bomba

While we said we’re mostly excluding atomic bombs, this Sovet hydrogen bomb mishap was too massive to ignore. Officially known as AN602, the Tsar Bomba yielded the most powerful explosion ever recorded in human history, with the force of 50 megatons of TNT. Little Boy, the bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima, yielded just 15 kilotons of force. This makes the Tsar Bomba 3,000 times more powerful than the atom bomb that glassed an entire city. The resulting fireball was five miles wide, and the mushroom cloud stretched 42 miles into the mesosphere. The blast wave traveled around the Earth three times, and the flare was visible more than 600 miles away. So, yeah, it was a big explosion.
Great info for my presentation about the 5 biggest explosions.