Ufa Train Explosion – 24 Years Ago Today (“Predictable Surprise”)

I did not write the following but I thought it very worth sharing.

This accident occurred 24 years ago.

Mr.Gorbachev then said that the apparent lax safety procedures and lazy practices here holding this country back from becoming a great nation. Today it is obvious this country didn’t evolve much, and the challenge of changing the safety culture is ours to face on our projects.

On the afternoon of June 4, 1989, two fully-loaded Russian passenger trains met a cloud of liquefied petroleum gas, resulting in a huge explosion. The blast rivaled that of the Hiroshima bomb, and killed over 500 people. Many were children, travelling to and from holidays on the Black Sea.

The LPG Pipeline, carrying gas along some of the same route as the rail lines, was loaded with a mixture of propane, butane and other hydrocarbons, pressurized to keep it liquefied. Pipeline engineers noticed a drop in pressure in the pipe on the morning of June 4. Instead of searching for a leak they increased pressure in the line to maintain production. This resulted in two huge clouds of heavier-than-air propane gas leaving the pipe. The gas traveled a half-mile to the rail line and settled in a gully between the towns of Ufa and Asha.

Two trains were travelling between Adler, a Black Sea holiday destination, and Novosibirsk, a major Trans-Siberian Railway hub. One train was travelling in each direction; they were at full capacity with a total of 1200 passengers, many of them children. Both engineers noticed clouds of foul-smelling gas on the tracks. The passing of the two trains stirred the gas with air, making and extremely volatile mix. A spark from the track ignited the gas at 1:15 pm.

The fireball from the explosion expanded for 1.6 km, flattened trees for 4 km, and destroyed both trains. Over 500 people died; exact numbers are not known because many bodies were never recovered. 723 survivors were seriously injured, most from burns. The fireball was visible for 95 miles, and the explosion broke windows in Asha.

President Mikhail Gorbachev toured the distaster, and voiced his frustration at the lax safety procedures and lazy practices that led to the disaster, and that continued to hold Russia back from achieving its potential as a great nation.

Very interestingly highlighted the fact that “Instead of searching for a leak they increased pressure in the line to maintain production.”

In line with other major disasters across history from all parts of the globe, this train explosion resulted as a consequence of ignoring the facts as they are; not as had been wished, or believed, they should be.

If those ‘Facts’ had been accepted and dealt with as ‘Facts’, of course the Russian train explosion, would have been prevented.

This is commonly known as the behavioral theory of Disconfirming Information”. 

The four stages of “DI” is that when anyone gets told or reads anything that isn’t agreeable or what is expected, we usually exhibit these behaviors as we process the information, or the situation:-

Stage 1 – “Shoot The Message”

To question the validity of the information or discrediting the facts presented.

Stage 2 – “Shoot The Messenger”

To question the deliverer’s motives and go on the attack.

Stage 3 – “Internalize”

Begin to process the information internally and filtering the information by taking the sensitivity out.

Stage 4 – “Acceptance”

Finish processing the information and coming to grips with what has been said.

Thereby the “Predictable Surprise” occurs without challenge and carnage results.

Because of a few individual’s ‘undesirable’ behaviours, unsafe conditions arose and the result is hundreds of people perish.

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About Shaun Farrell

I have been involved in the construction sector since 1986 and over the years I have seen things change dramatically. Much of the change has been directly as a result of technology. This blog will be about the key combinations of People, Process and Technology. Any views expressed here are strictly my own.
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