This timeline lists natural and man-made disasters in Canadian history.
January 23, 1556
Earthquake Hits Shanxi
An earthquake in Shanxi Province, China, is thought to have killed some 830 000 people.
June 11, 1638
Earthquake Hits Trois-Rivières
An earthquake was recorded near Trois-Rivières.
February 05, 1663
Earthquake Hits Québec
An earthquake struck Québec, opening fissures in the snow, rocking houses and diverting streams.
August 05, 1682
Fire Destroys Québec
A fire reduced the public square of Québec to rubble.
August 23, 1711
Naval Disaster on St Lawrence
A British fleet under Admiral Sir Hovenden Walker, sailing to attack Québec, blundered onto the rocks of Ile-aux-Oeufs. The 19 warships and 41 other ships carried over 11 000 men; 7 transports and a supply ship were lost with as many as 950 men.
October 05, 1825
The Miramichi fire began after a dry summer, devastating timberland and destroying Douglastown and Newcastle. Some 200 to 500 people were killed.
May 22, 1826
Red River Flood, 1826
The greatest known flood of the Red River in Manitoba destroyed the Red River Colony. The water crested on May 22, two and a half weeks after the flood began.
January 23, 1834
Fire Destroys Château
Fire destroyed the famous Château Saint-Louis at Québec.
June 28, 1845
Fire at Saint-Jean (Que)
Fire struck Saint-Jean, Qué, jumping from house to house and destroying 1300 homes. In total, more than 18 000 people were left homeless.
June 09, 1846
Fire Destroys St. John's, 1846
A fire in St John's, Newfoundland, levelled most of the city.
April 25, 1849
Parliament Buildings Burned
The Parliament Buildings in Montréal were burned down in riots protesting Lord Elgin's signing of the Rebellion Losses Bill. The seat of government was removed from Montréal and the Parliament met alternatively in Toronto and Québec City.
December 24, 1851
Fire Damages Library
Fire damaged the Library of Congress in the Capitol at Washington, destroying two-thirds of the collection acquired from Thomas Jefferson in 1814 along with thousands of other volumes.
October 27, 1854
Rail Disaster at Chatham
At Baptiste Creek, 24 km west of Chatham, Ont, a gravel train was hit by an express train that was running 7 hours late. The accident killed 52 and injured 48 others, the worst rail disaster in North America to that time.
November 24, 1854
Heroine of Long Point
During a vicious storm on Lake Erie, the schooner Conductor foundered. The crew clung to the frozen rigging all night. Next morning Abigail Becker waded shoulder-high into the surf and coaxed the men ashore.
March 12, 1857
Desjardins Canal Train Disaster
A Great Western Railway passenger train crashed through the rotting timber bridge over the Desjardins Canal, near Hamilton, Ont, killing 59 people.
April 14, 1861
St Lawrence River Flood
The St Lawrence River flooded, inundating Montréal.
June 29, 1864
Rail Disaster at St Hilaire
A Grand Trunk Railway train plunged off the Beloeil Bridge into the Richelieu River at St-Hilaire, Qué, killing 99 people and injuring another 100. It was Canada's worst train wreck.
October 09, 1867
In one of the greatest stories of heroism ever recorded, William Jackman threw himself into the icy water off Labrador and rescued 11 of the 27 crew of a foundered ship unassisted. With the help of others he swam out 16 more times.
April 01, 1873
Wreck of the SS Atlantic
The passenger ship Atlantic, bound for New York, foundered on a reef off Peggy's Point, Nova Scotia. More than 500 people were killed.
May 13, 1873
Mine Disaster at Westville
The first mine disaster occurred at Westville, NS. An explosion ripped through the tunnels, and two years passed before the last of the 60 bodies was recovered.
June 20, 1877
Fire Destroys Saint John
Fire destroyed a large area of Saint John, NB. It destroyed most of the wharf-side structures, the schooners docked in the slip and much of the city core. Eleven lives were lost.
February 25, 1880
NB Legislature Burned
The New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton was destroyed by fire.
June 13, 1886
Fire Devastes Vancouver
A devastating fire swept through the city of Vancouver, leaving only Hasting Mills and a few isolated structures in the downtown core standing.
May 03, 1887
Mine Disaster at Nanaimo
An explosion and fire at a Nanaimo, BC, coal mine killed 150 men, the worst mining disaster in BC history.
September 19, 1889
Rockslide in Québec
A massive rockslide smashed much of Champlain Street in Québec City, killing 45.
February 21, 1891
Springhill Mine Disaster, 1891
One hundred and twenty-five miners were killed in a coal mine disaster in Springhill, NS.
July 08, 1892
Fire Destroys St. John's, 1892
A fire broke out in a barn on Long's Hill and swept through St John's. Some 12,000 people were left homeless after two-thirds of the city was destroyed.
May 26, 1896
Point Ellice Bridge Disaster
During celebrations for Queen Victoria's birthday, a span of the bridge at Point Ellice in the harbour of Victoria, BC, fell out. A loaded streetcar fell with it and 55 people were killed, the worst streetcar accident in North American history.
September 11, 1898
New Westminster Burns
The city of New Westminster, BC, was destroyed by fire.
March 17, 1900
Fire at Académie de musique de Québec
The 1600 seat theatre of the Académie de musique de Québec was destroyed by fire.
April 26, 1900
Fire in Hull
Some 15 000 people lost their homes and several died as the worst fire in Canadian history destroyed two-thirds of Hull, Québec.
April 29, 1903
A rockslide (commonly called the Frank Slide) from Turtle Mountain, NWT (Alta), onto the town of Frank killed at least 70 people, the most disastrous rockfall in Canadian history.
April 19, 1904
Toronto on Fire
Fire broke out on Wellington Street and spread across downtown Toronto, destroying 98 buildings over 7.7 hectares. Firefighters arrived from as far away as Buffalo, New York.
August 29, 1907
Québec Bridge Disaster, 1907
Part of the Québec Bridge, the longest cantilever bridge in the world, collapsed, killing 75 workmen. Blame for the collapse was placed on the American engineer Theodore Cooper and faulty we plates.
January 21, 1910
Sudbury Train Disaster
A broken rail caused derailment of a CPR passenger train west of Sudbury, killing 43.
March 04, 1910
Avalanche at Rogers Pass
An avalanche at Bear Creek in the Rogers Pass engulfed a work crew that had been clearing snow from an earlier slide across the CPR main line. One man survived, 62 were killed, many of them frozen in position by the flash of ice.
December 09, 1910
Bellevue Mine Explosion Kills 31
An explosion in a coal mine at Bellevue, Alta, killed 31 men. It was caused in part by the negligence of the coal company.
July 11, 1911
South Porcupine Fire
A forest fire swept into the Northern Ontario town, killing about 50 people and burning the town to the ground.
April 14, 1912
The Titanic struck an iceberg 590 km east of Newfoundland on the fifth day of its maiden voyage. It sank in 2 hrs, 40 mins with the loss of 1,522 lives, including the captain and Canadian railway tycoon Charles Melville Hays.
June 30, 1912
Tornado Strikes Regina
A tornado struck the heart of Regina, killing 28 persons and causing millions in damages.
November 07, 1913
Great Lakes Gale
A November storm rose over the Great Lakes and over the next 4 days sank more than 34 ships with a loss of hundreds of lives.
May 29, 1914
Empress of Ireland Sinks
The CP steamer Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian ship Storstad in fog in the Gulf of St Lawrence near Rimouski, Qué. The Empress sank in only 14 minutes and 1014 died.
June 19, 1914
Hillcrest Mine Explosion
An explosion of methane gas at Hillcrest, Alta, killed 189 men in Canada's worst mining disaster.
February 03, 1916
Parliament Buildings Burn
Most of the original Parliament Buildings in Ottawa were destroyed by fire, killing 7 people. Only the Parliamentary Library survived intact.
July 29, 1916
Cochrane and Matheson Burn
Fires started by lightning and locomotive sparks combined into a firestorm that struck Cochrane and Matheson, Ont, burning both towns and killing at least 233 people.
September 11, 1916
Québec Bridge Disaster, 1916
A new centre span of the Québec Bridge fell into the river as it was being hoisted into position, killing 13 men.
December 06, 1917
At Halifax, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc collided with the Belgian relief ship Imo. The resulting explosion, the largest before the advent of the atomic bomb, killed more than 1,600 people and injured 9,000 in Canada's worst disaster.
January 23, 1918
Stellarton Mine Disaster
Eighty-eight men died in a mine explosion in the Allan Shaft at Stellarton, NS.
January 09, 1927
Laurier Palace Fire
At a fire that broke out in the Laurier Palace Theatre, Montréal, 76 people died in the panic to escape an overcrowded building.
September 21, 1927
Rail Disaster in Yale
Ten railway cars carrying a valuable cargo of silk went off the rails east of Yale, BC. Five of them ended up in the Fraser River.
August 25, 1928
BC Airways Plane Crashes
What has been called Canada's 1st major air disaster occurred when bad weather caused a BC Airways Ford Trimotor plane to crash in Puget Sound, Washington.
December 12, 1942
St. John's Fire Disaster
A fire at the Knights of Columbus Hall in St John's, Newfoundland, claimed 99 lives within 7 terrifying minutes. The hall's auditorium was packed with military personnel and civilians for the radio broadcast of "Uncle Tim's Barn Dance."
January 13, 1943
HMCS Ville de Quebec Sinks U-Boat
HMCS Ville de Quebec sank the German submarine U-224 in the western Mediterranean Sea.
January 08, 1944
HMCS Camrose Sinks U-boat
HMCS Camrose and HMS Bayntun sank the German submarine U-757 in the North Atlantic.
December 24, 1944
HMCS Clayoquot was torpedoed by U-boat 806 and sinks in the Halifax approaches.
December 27, 1944
HMCS St. Thomas Sinks U-boat
HMCS St. Thomas sank the German submarine U-877 in the North Atlantic.
January 30, 1945
World's Largest Marine Disaster
About 7700 people were killed when the German passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff, carrying Germans fleeing Poland in the face of advancing Russian troops, was torpedoed in the Baltic by a Soviet submarine. It was the world's largest marine disaster.
July 18, 1945
Bedford Magazine Explosion
An ammunition barge blew up at the naval magazine jetty on Bedford Basin, Halifax harbour. A chain reaction of fire, explosion and concussion rocked Halifax for a day.
January 31, 1946
The once-famous schooner Bluenose hit a reef and sank off the coast of Haiti. The crew of 8 men was rescued.
May 28, 1948
Floods in BC
BC's worst flood on record caused 10 deaths and $300 million in damage along the lower Fraser River.Two hundred families were left homeless, rail service was disrupted for two weeks, and more than 80 bridges washed away.
August 22, 1949
Canada's Largest Recorded Earthquake
The largest earthquake in Canada since 1700 shook the West Coast at a magnitude of 8.1. The epicentre of the quake was located on the Queen Charlotte Fault directly below Haida Gwaii. Shaking was so intense that cows on the islands were knocked off their feet. Standing on the mainland in Terrace, BC, was described as "like being on the heaving deck of a ship at sea." Shockwaves were felt north of Whitehorse, YT, and south of Seattle, Washington.
September 09, 1949
Twenty-three people were killed when a Québec Airways DC-3 was sabotaged with a bomb and exploded and crashed near St-Joachim, Québec. J.A. Guay and two accomplices were convicted and hanged for the crime.
September 17, 1949
The burning of the cruise ship Noronic in Toronto harbour claimed 118 lives.
May 05, 1950
Red River Flood, 1950
A flood of the Red River in Manitoba killed one person, forced 100 000 Winnipeg inhabitants to flee their homes and caused $100 million in damage.
October 15, 1954
Hurricane Hazel, beginning in the Caribbean on October 6, struck Toronto with 124 km/h winds and 10.1 cm of rain in 12 hours; 81 people died and there was extensive property damage.
November 01, 1956
Springhill Mine Disaster, 1956
A mine disaster at Springhill, NS, killed 39 men. Another 88 trapped men were later rescued.
August 11, 1957
First Civilian Air Disaster
The first major civilian air disaster in Canada occurred during a violent thunderstorm over Issoudun, 40 km southwest of Québec City, when a chartered Maritime Central Airways DC-4 crashed, killing all 79 aboard.
June 17, 1958
Second Narrows Bridge Collapse
The fourth and fifth spans of the Second Narrows Bridge in Vancouver collapsed as a result of an engineering miscalculation. Eighteen workers were killed.
October 12, 1962
Typhoon Freda Hits Vancouver
Typhoon Freda hit Vancouver around midnight, with winds greater than 100 kph. The storm lasted about 4 hours, killing 7 people and blowing down a fifth of all the trees in Stanley Park.
November 29, 1963
Airliner Crashes in Québec
A TCA airliner with 111 passengers and a crew of 7 crashed after take-off near Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville, Qué, killing all 118 persons aboard.
January 09, 1965
Avalanche on Hope-Princeton Highway
An avalanche of rock buried a 3-km stretch of the Hope-Princeton highway, killing 4 motorists.
July 08, 1965
CP Airliner Explodes
A Canadian Pacific airliner crashed into Gustafsen Lake, BC, after the explosion of a bomb on board, killing 52 people.
February 04, 1970
Arrow Runs Aground
The Liberian-registered tanker Arrow ran aground on Cerebus Rock in Chedabucto Bay, NS, spilling 10,500 metric tons of oil onto the water and beaches and causing catastrophic environmental damage.
July 05, 1970
DC-8 Crashes in Toronto
An Air Canada DC-8 crashed near Toronto International Airport, while en route from Montréal to Los Angeles. All 109 passengers and crew were killed.
August 02, 1970
BC Ferry Disaster
A BC ferry and a Soviet freighter collided in Active Pass. Three passengers on the ferry were killed.
September 01, 1972
Arson's Fire Kills 37
Arsonists set fire to the Blue Bird Club in Montréal. Thirty-seven people were killed, 54 injured.
January 25, 1973
Oil Spill on Vancouver Island
The freighter Irish Stardust ran aground north of Vancouver Island, spilling 378,000 L of fuel oil.
August 04, 1978
Bus Disaster near Eastman
The worst single-vehicle accident in Canada (and the worst bus disaster in Canada or the US) occurred near Eastman, Qué, as a chartered bus plunged into Lac d'Argent, killing 41 people.
December 31, 1979
Fire at Le Club Opemiska
Arsonists set fire to Le Club Opemiska in Chapais, Qué, during a New Year's Eve party, killing 42.
December 26, 1980
Flooding in Vancouver
Floods near Vancouver caused $13 million in damage along the Squamish River. Residents were evacuated following a week of heavy rains and flooding.
February 15, 1982
Ocean Ranger Capsizes
The Ocean Ranger, the world's largest semi-submersible drill rig, capsized and sank in a storm on the Grand Banks with the loss of all 84 crew members, 56 of whom were Newfoundlanders.
June 02, 1983
Plane Fire Kills 23
Twenty-three passengers were killed in a fire on a DC-9 at Cincinnati, including folk singer Stan Rogers.
December 03, 1984
Gas Disaster in Bhopal, India
A cloud of toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped from the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India, killing 4000 and injuring another 200 000, in the worst industrial disaster in history.
March 29, 1985
Air Collision in Edmonton
Ten airmen were killed when 2 C-130 Hercules transport planes collided in midair and crashed at CFB Edmonton. The planes were flying in formation during a ceremonial flypast at the base.
May 31, 1985
Tornado Hits Barrie
A tornado hit Barrie, Ont, in the worst inland storm since Hurricane Hazel. Some 300 houses were destroyed, at least 8 were killed and thousands were left homeless.
June 23, 1985
Air India Disaster
The worst air disaster associated with Canada and the third worst in history was the explosion, likely from a terrorist bomb, of Air India Flight 182 from Toronto. The plane crashed into the N Atlantic off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 on board.
August 12, 1985
BC Ferry Sinks Boat
The BC ferry Queen of Cowichan collided with a pleasure craft in Horseshoe Bay, killing 3 in the smaller boat.
September 19, 1985
Mexico City Earthquake
Mexico City was struck by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake which, together with a second major quake on the following day, killed as many as 10 000 people.
February 23, 1986
Train Disaster at Hinton
Twenty-three people died in a head-on collision between a CN freight train and a Via Rail passenger train at Hinton, Alta.
July 31, 1987
Tornado Hits Edmonton
A tornado swept through parts of southeast and northeast Edmonton, flattening residences and laying waste to an industrial park and a trailer park. Twenty-seven people were killed.
May 09, 1992
Westray Mine Disaster
Twenty-six miners were killed at Plymouth, NS, when a blast triggered by the ignition of stray methane led to a chain reaction of lethal methane and coal-dust explosions.
November 20, 1992
Fire Ravages Windsor Castle
In Britain, fire ravaged historic Windsor Castle, the queen's second main residence.
January 17, 1994
Earthquake Hits California
A major earthquake hit southern California, killing 57 and leaving 25 000 homeless.
September 28, 1994
The automobile ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic off Finland, with the loss of 900 lives.
January 17, 1995
Earthquake Hits Kobe
A powerful earthquake hit Kobe, Japan, killing over 4000 people and leaving 275 000 homeless.
June 09, 1995
Floods in Medicine Hat
Floods in Medicine Hat, Alta, forced some 5000 people from their homes.
August 11, 1995
Toronto Subway Disaster
Subway trains collided in Toronto, killing 3 passengers and injuring 36 in the worst accident in the system's history.
December 01, 1995
Trial Ordered in Westray Blast
A Canadian Court of Appeal in Halifax ordered 2 men to stand trial in connection with the Westray mine blast.
July 19, 1996
Flooding caused by torrential rains killed 10 people, destroyed 22 488 homes and left thousands homeless in the Saguenay region of Québec. An inquiry later reported that the region's system of dams was poorly maintained.
July 20, 1996
Floods Hit Québec
Devastating floods hit the Charlevoix and Lower North Shore regions of Québec after 277 mm of rain fell in a short time onto already saturated earth. The floods killed 7, left 10 000 homeless and destroyed the area's industry.
May 01, 1997
Red River Flood, 1997
The water crested on the worst flood since 1950 in southern Manitoba. The new floodway and 6.5 million sand bags protected Winnipeg but a number of other communities were inundated.
October 13, 1997
Worst Bus Crash in Canada
A bus crashed into a ravine near Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, Québec, killing 43 people, leaving only 5 survivors. It was the worst crash in Canadian history.
January 04, 1998
Ice Storm Hits East
A severe winter ice storm raged across eastern Canada causing an estimated $2 billion damage and leaving 25 dead and 3 million without electric power.
September 02, 1998
Swissair Flight Crashes
Swissair Flight 111 en route from New York to Geneva crashed off Peggy's Cove, NS, killing all 229 people on board.
April 26, 1999
Chernobyl Virus Attack
A computer virus called Chernobyl damaged computers around the world on the anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.
August 17, 1999
Earthquake Hits Turkey
A major earthquake struck northwest Turkey devastating several large cities and killing an estimated 35 000 people.
February 06, 2000
BC Ferries' Collide
A high-speed catamaran, The Royal Vancouver, collided with the BC Ferries' Queen of Saanich in the fog in Active Pass, injuring 23 catamaran passengers.
July 14, 2000
Tornado Kills Eleven
A tornado struck an Alberta campsite near Pine Lake, killing 11 people and injuring 130 others. Winds reached 300 km/hr.
September 14, 2000
BC Ferry Collides with Powerboat
BC Ferries' Spirit of Vancouver Island collided with a powerboat near the Swartz Bay ferry terminal at Victoria, killing two in the powerboat.
February 01, 2003
Shuttle Columbia Disaster
Space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Tyler, Texas, killing all seven people on board, including the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and Kalpana Chawla of India. First clues pointed to failure of the heat-shielding tiles.
February 01, 2003
Avalanche Kills Seven
Six boys and one girl, all students of Strathcona-Tweedsmuir school in Calgary, died when they were caught in an avalanche in the Connaught Creek Valley, near the Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park, BC.
December 26, 2004
Earthquake and Tsunami in the Indian Ocean
A giant earthquake struck about 150 kilometres off the west coast of northern Sumatra Island (Indonesia) generating a catastrophic tsunami that caused devastation in eleven countries around the Indian Ocean. The tsunami waves caused killed people more than 2,000 kilometers away, as far as the Seychelles and Somalia By February 2005, the global death toll was estimated as 226,566, with many unreported deaths. The Government of Canada donated some $425 million to relief and reconstruction in the affected region.
March 22, 2006
BC Ferry Sinks
BC Ferries' Queen of the North hit a rock near Gil Island and sank while traveling south from Prince Rupert. Two of the 101 passengers were never found.
June 05, 2006
BC Ferries Report
The Transportation Safety Board declared that human error caused BC Ferries' Queen of the North to sink on 22 March 2006, killing 2.
March 01, 2009
Helicopter Crash Near Nfld
A Cougar Helicopters chopper went down off the coast of Newfoundland after issuing a mayday about technical problems. Officials recovered two life-rafts but no one was aboard. Seventeen of the 18 passengers and crew were lost at sea.
January 12, 2010
Earthquake Strikes Haiti
A devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Though estimates vary, over 230,000 people died, including 58 Canadians who were in the country working with NGOs and United Nations programs. Canada responded immediately, evacuating thousands and sending 2,000 troops and millions in relief funds. Canada–Haiti relations date back to 1954 and are bolstered by the considerable number of Haitians who call Canada home.
June 23, 2010
Earthquake Near Ottawa
An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter Scale hit 60 km north of Ottawa, causing tremors that shook central Ontario and part of Québec. Though no lives were lost and only minimal damage occurred, the quake was unique in that it was felt as far away as New York.
March 11, 2011
Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
A massive earthquake caused a catastrophic tsunami to strike the coast of Japan causing devastation in the coastal towns, tens of thousands of deaths and a lingering nuclear crisis.
April 30, 2011
Flooding of the Montérégie Region of Québec
Major flooding began in the Montérégie region as rapid snowmelt and heavy rains caused water levels to rise in Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. All bordering municipalities would be affected, with nearly 3000 homes and much arable land flooded. In early May, Premier Jean Charest requested assistance from the Canadian Forces.
May 15, 2011
Slave Lake Burns
Wildfires, propelled by strong winds, swept through the town of Slave Lake, AB, destroying 30 percent of the town.
June 08, 2013
Alberta Flood Begins
Torrential rains in both northern and southern Alberta flood the landscape and mire cities and townships. As many as 75,000 people are evacuated from Calgary as the Bow and Elbow rivers swell. Waters begin to recede a full two weeks after rains began.
July 08, 2013
Record-Breaking Flash Floods Hit Toronto
A record-breaking Toronto, ON, storm dropped 126 mm of rain in half a day, causing blackouts, flooding and transit chaos. The previous single-day record was 121.4 mm, set in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel. The flooding shut down sections of highway and the subway. 300,000 households lost power.
May 13, 2014
Charges Laid in Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Explosion
Three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway were charged with criminal negligence in the 6 July 2013 oil train crash that killed 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Québec. An investigation into the disaster determined, among other causes, that the handbrakes on the train were insufficient, causing the train to slide down a sloped length of track, derail and explode in downtown Lac-Mégantic.
June 22, 2015
More Charges Laid in Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Explosion
Six former employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway were charged under the Railway Safety Act and Fisheries Act for their role in the 6 July 2013 oil train crash that killed 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Québec. The charges were laid almost a year after three employees faced charges of criminal negligence in connection with the disaster.
May 03, 2016
Fort McMurray Wildfire
A raging forest fire, which had begun southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, crossed the Athabasca River toward the city, prompting the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents. The fire eventually covered 500,000 hectares, destroyed 2,400 structures (about 10 per cent of Fort McMurray), and forced oil sands producers to temporarily shut down their operations. It was called the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.