The disaster of Texas City was an industrial accident that occurred on April 16, 1947 in the port of Texas City. A giant explosion was occurred during the loading of fertilizers onto the freighter Grandcamp at a pier in Texas City by originating with a mid-morning fire aboard. Its cargo of approximately 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, with initial blast and subsequent chain-reaction of further fires and explosions in the other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities. Approximately 405 people were identified as dead and 63 have never been identified whereas 113 people were missing (Minutaglio, Bill (2003). The explosion caused $100 million in damages in United States. On behalf of 8,485 victims, the disaster triggered first ever class action lawsuit against United States government, under recently enacted The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). On April 13, 1950, the district court found that United States was responsible for a litany of negligent acts of omission and commission by 168 named agencies and their representatives in the manufacturing, packaging and labeling of ammonium nitrate and also errors in transport, storage, loading, fire prevention, and fire suppression, all of which led to the explosions and the subsequent carnage. The Supreme Court affirmed that decision noting that the district court had no jurisdiction under the federal statute to find the U.S. government liable for “negligent planning decisions” which were properly delegated to various departments and agencies. The Dust Bowl exodus in America was the largest migration in American history within a short period of time. During the dust storms of the 1930s, the weather threw up so much dirt that there was zero visibility and everything was covered with the dirt. Approximately 3.5 million people moved out of plains states of those, it was unknown how many moved to California between 1930 and 1940 (Worster, Donald, 1979). The Dust Bowl, 1930s forced tens of thousands of the families to abandon their farms. Many of these families migrated to California and other states. The crisis was documented by the photographers, musicians and authors, many hired during the Great Depression by the federal government. All of them captured what have become classic images of the dust storms and the migrant families. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 in United States was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet. To prevent future floods, the government of United States built the world’s longest system of the levees and floodways and about 30 tons of dynamite were set off on the levee at Caernarvon, Louisiana and sent 250,000 ft³/s of water pouring through. African Americans, comprising 75% of the population in the delta lowlands and supplying 95% of the agricultural labor force, were most affected in Mississippi flood. It has been estimated that out of 637,000 people forced to relocate by water, 94% lived in three states Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and that 69% of 325,146 people who occupied the relief camps were African American (William Alexander Percy, 2006).
Following the Great Flood of 1927, the Army Corps of Engineers was again charged with taming Mississippi River. Under the Flood Control Act of 1928, the world’s longest system of the levees was built. The floodways that diverted excessive flow from the Mississippi River were constructed. United States also needed money to rebuild existing roads and bridges. Louisiana despite receiving $1,067,336.40 from the federal government for rebuilding, also had to institute a state gasoline tax to create a $30,000,000 fund to pay for the new hard-surfaced highways (Barry et al. 1998). More than 75% of topsoil was blown away by the end of 1930s in many regions. The land degradation also varied widely. Aside from the short-term economic consequences caused by the erosion, there were severe long-term economic consequences of the Dust Bowl in America. Dust Bowl was a severe American environmental problem and such a problem deserved better treatment than it regretfully received.
John M. Barry measured the Mississippi flood’s effects on the political power, race relations, and the land itself in America. This history of America is at its best when it describes the personalities and the theories that shaped flood control and relief efforts. It also does a good job of integrating the natural disaster into the political and social history of America. According to Koliba et al. (2011, 210), “failures of accountability lead to the failures in performance.” To avoid failure and go beyond the analysis of the disaster governance breakdowns, it is important to identify the drivers and pre-requisites of the good disaster governance. The conventional and administrative approach of managing risk rather than reducing, it focuses on the disaster preparedness and response rather than long-term reduction of the risk, losses, exposure and vulnerability. The disaster contributed to the great migration of the African Americans from the south to the cities in the north. The flood is also found its place in the folklore, music, literature and films.
John M. Barry, (1998), Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.
Koliba, C J, R M Mills, and A Zia, (2011), “Accountability in Governance Networks: An Assessment of Public, Private, and Nonprofit Emergency Management Practices Following Hurricane Katrina.” Public Administration Review 71 (2): 210–220. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02332.x.
Minutaglio, Bill (2003), City on Fire: The Explosion That Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle. Harper. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-06-095991-3.
William Alexander Percy (2006), Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son. Reprint. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 257–258, 266. ISBN 978-0-8071-0072-1.
Worster, Donald (1979). Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Oxford University Press. p. 49.