Despite precautions, the manufacture and storage of sophisticated chemicals can occasionally lead to accidental tragedy. Among the major catastrophes of the modern industrial era:
Mexico City, Nov. 19,1984. Shortly before dawn, liquefied-gas tanks exploded at the San Juan Ixhuatepec storage facility operated by state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos. The resulting fire took 452 lives and injured 4,248 in Mexico's largest industrial disaster; 1,000 people are still missing.
Cubatao, Brazil, Feb. 25,1984. Gasoline from a leaky pipeline in this southeast Brazilian town exploded into a giant fireball that killed at least 500 people.
San Carlos de...