When Small Failures Become Disasters
ON July 6, 1988, workers on the Piper Alpha offshore drilling rig in the North Sea worked on repairing a gas-condensate pump but did not complete the job. Because of a communication breakdown, the next shift of workers turned the pump on. Fire broke out. High above the sea and with no way to escape, 167 persons died.
Twelve years later, on July 25, 2000, a supersonic Concorde accelerated down the runway at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. As the plane gathered momentum, a small piece of titanium debris on the runway caused a blowout in a tire, which, in turn, caused a wing tank to rupture. Fuel streamed into the left engines, robbing them of power and forming a 200-foot-long [60 meters] tongue of fire. After about two minutes, the plane crashed into a hotel, killing all on board as well as some people on the ground.
Reflecting on such accidents, James Chiles says in his book Inviting Disaster—Lessons From the Edge of Technology: “In our new world, surrounded by machines occasionally gone savage, we need to acknowledge the extraordinary damage that ordinary mistakes can now cause.” In a review of Chiles’ book, the journal Science says: “The extraordinary, accelerating advance of science and technology over the past few hundred years has been intoxicating. It fills us with a sense of nearly unlimited possibility for understanding and manipulating the physical world. [But] there is no reason to suspect that we are now any less fallible than before.”
Regarding the more dangerous technologies, Science states: “Even a tiny risk [of error] is intolerably high. For those technologies, we must insist on perfection.” But does mankind’s track record indicate that perfection is attainable? Hardly! So error-related disasters of one kind or another will no doubt continue.
But they will not continue indefinitely. God-fearing people can look forward to a future when life will not be tragically cut short because of human failure or limitations. Why? Because God, by means of his heavenly Kingdom government, will eliminate all causes of death, sorrow, and pain.—Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:3, 4.
[Picture Credit Line on page 31]
AP Photo/Toshihiko Sato