worst toronto disasters

The 5 worst disasters in Toronto history

Toronto has a reputation as one of the safest cities in the world, and it's one that's well-earned. Relatively speaking, there have been very few tragedies on a grand scale in this city. There are, however, some obvious and solemn exceptions to the rule, be it on account of weather or human error.

These are the five worst disasters in Toronto history.

S.S. Noronic fire - September 1949
Still the worst disaster in Toronto history over 65 years later, the S.S. Noronic was rapidly consumed by flames on a late summer night while docked in the city's harbour. The inferno claimed the lives of at least 118 passengers (the exact number was impossible to determine) in one of the most gruesome ways imaginable.

Air Canada Flight 621 - July 1970
A routine flight from Montreal to Toronto turned tragic when the First Officer deployed the ground spoilers as the DC-8 plane was about 60 feet from the runway, which led to a rapid descent. Despite the Captain's efforts to throttle up and go around, the plane hit the runway, lost an engine, and suffered a fuel leak. It crashed a few minutes later killing all 109 on board.

Hurricane Hazel - October 1954
Hurricane Hazel was a majorly destructive storm, having killed over 500 people before reaching the Toronto area. The city was completely unprepared for its wrath, which contributed to the loss of 81 lives in the GTA due to flooding. Multiple homes were washed into the Humber River and Etobicoke Creek, their residents helpless to save themselves.

SARS - spring 2003
The SARS outbreak in Toronto claimed the lives of 44 people and forced the quarantine of some 25,000. Even as it was mostly contained to health care workers, the fear that it could spiral out of control was very real in the early days of the crisis.

The Great Toronto Fire - April 1904
Miraculously only one person died in this massive blaze that consumed much of the city's core at the time. Despite the lack of casualties, the damage was profound with 104 buildings lost. Fire crews came from as far as Buffalo to fight the blaze, which was eventually contained nine hours after it was first detected.

Photo from the Toronto Archives.

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