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History | What happened today | 23 October

23 October, 2002: Moscow theatre hostage crisis.



Today in 2002, during a sold-out performance of a popular musical, about 50 Chechen rebels storm a Moscow theatre taking about 700 people as hostage. 

"Nord Ost", the second act of musical was about to begin at Moscow Ball-Bearing Plant's Palace of Culture but was interrupted because of an armed man who came on stage and fired a machine gun into the air. The terrorists, including several women with explosive strapped on their bodies identified themselves as member of the Chechen Army, these terrorists demanded immediate and complete withdrawal of Russian military forces from Chechnya. 

Chechnya was located north of the Caucasus mountains, was a war-torn region with predominately Muslim population, the region struggled for many years to establish its independence. In 1996, a deadly war ended after two years, but just after 3 years, the Russian Forces again  returned to the region just after the Russian authorities blamed Chechens for a series of bombing in Russia. For his uncompromising stance towards Chechnya and his public vow not to negotiate with terrorist President Vladimir Putin was elected in the year 2000.

In the wake of a 57-hours-standoff at the Moscow theatre, two hostages were killed, Russian special forces raided the theatre on the morning of 26 October. It was revealed that the special forces pumped a powerful narcotic gas into the building which knocked almost every hostages and terrorist unconscious before breaking in the theatre from walls, roof and underground sewage. Most of the terrorist and hostages were killed in the raid and later the security forces were asked to defend on the decision of using such dangerous gas in the raid. The security forces said only a surprise attack could have disarmed the terrorists before they had detonated their explosive.

More interesting facts

23 October, 1989: Ethylene leak killed 23 at Plastic factory.


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On this day in history, In a series of explosions due to ethylene gas leaked at a factory in Pasadena, Texas, about 23 people died. The blasts which happened at a Phillips Petroleum Company plant were caused due to carelessness in following safety procedures. The plant produced million of Pounds of plastic everyday which was used in making toys and containers. 

Chain of events which lead to the disaster

At the Phillips 66 Chemical Complex in Pasadena, a polythene reactor was used to create necessary chemical compounds for the production of plastics. In an effort to cut costs, Phillips partially contracted much of the necessary maintenance work in the plant, also the contractor, Fish Engineering and Construction, the primary sub contractor, did not have a stellar reputation.

In the month of August, about one and a half month from the accident, a Fish employee opened gas piping for maintenance without isolating the line, the flammable solvents rushing from the pipes leaked out in a work area where they ignited, this resulted in the drastic fatality of one worker and injuring four others. 

On the day of accident Fish was once again called for maintenance work on the plant, this time working on the plant's polythene reactor, once again the problem arose, A valve was not secured properly, at 1 p.m., 85,000 pounds of ethylene -isobutane gas, which is highly inflammable was released into the plant. Due to lack of warning system and detectors, within 2 minutes, with a power of two and a half ton dynamite a huge gas cloud got ignited. The explosion was heard from miles away from the accident site and the fire ball was sighted from the distance of 15 miles.

Investigation and fatalities. 

In a subsequent investigation it was found  that Phillips was found several serious safety violations in previous years, cited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Also the plant did not go through a comprehensive inspection since 1975. Inadequate safety procedure led the plant to suffer to the vulnerable disaster, However n o criminal charges were imposed on Phillips or its managers. The disaster took twenty-three lives and left 130 injured.

  

  

    

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