On April 18, 1992, residents of the Analco district in Guadalajara, Mexico started complaining to their local government that the streets smelled funny. The next day, plumes of white smoke were spotted coming out of storm drains and sewers, and the smell got worse. Some people were understandably confused when they turned on their faucets and were greeted not with the water of life, but with gasoline.
This was a bad thing.
|Albeit convenient if you didn't feel like driving out of your way, I guess.|
City workers were dispatched to investigate, and they reported dangerous levels of gas fumes in the sewers. Probably not enough to cause any damage, they insisted. So the mayor advised everyone to go about their business while the city worked out a solution to the smell and the very obviously tainted water supply. Because that's no big deal, right? What's the worse that could happen?
If you answered, "The whole goddamn city could blow the hell up," congratulations! You understand basic safety rules concerning gasoline. The City of Guadalajara, sadly, did not. No one was evacuated before the gas lines below the Analco district violently exploded. 11 times.
|One would have sufficed, I'm sure.|
The explosions utterly destroyed five miles of streets and up to a billion dollars' worth of property. That's on top of the 252 deaths, 500 injuries, and 15,000 people rendered homeless by the damage.
So how did this happen? Aside from gross negligence in the face of increasingly worrisome signs of a gas leak, how did the damn leak get there in the first place? Well, if you've ever experienced a water leak in an older house with mixed metals in the plumbing, you may already know the reason.
The water pipes in Guadalajara were relatively new, and the city didn't want to spend too much money putting them in. They opted for zinc-coated iron for the material, not taking into account the fact that, in order to save money on excavation, the new pipes were being installed right next to steel gasoline pipes. When you stick those two metals together, science happens!
|The kind of science you don't want on your water pipes or (especially) gas pipes.|
Specifically, a chemical reaction that results in corrosion which, when water is added to mix, leads to even more corrosion. I don't think I need to tell you (especially since you already know the result) why all this corrosion right next to a gas pipe is bad news bears.
The moral of the story here is that plumbing is complicated, and can blow up not just your house, but an entire city district.