25 Most Deadly Fires in Living Memory

In this article we look at the 25 most deadly structural fires in living memory from around the world. This list has been composed using the list of accidents and disasters by death toll on Wikipedia.

This list has been sorted by the number of deaths caused by the fires, and has been compiled to act as a reminder why fire safety is so important.

25. San Pedro Sula’s Prison Fire (Honduras)

Prisons in Honduras are infamous for their fires which are usually started by inmates. But in this case the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. The prison was built to contain 800 inmates but was housing about 2,200. The majority of the inmates were tragically killed while trapped in their cells.

Year of fire: 2004
Cause of fire: Electrical short circuit
Number of deaths: 108

24. Sennichi Department Store Fire (Japan)

The fire started on the third floor of a six story building. The building contained various other businesses, including a cabaret. All those in the cabaret lost their lives. The event has gone down in history as Japan’s worse department store in terms of casualties.

Year of fire: 1972
Cause of fire: Cigarette carelessly discarded or a smouldering match
Number of deaths: 118

23. Tazreen Fashion Factory Fire (India)

The number of dead and injured in this fire made it India’s deadliest factory fire in the nation’s history. It was originally thought that the fire was caused by a short circuit on the ground floor of the nine story building. As the factory stocked large amounts of fabrics and yarn it caused the fire to spread rapidly.

Year of fire: 2012
Cause of fire: Suspected that the fire had been arson and an act of “sabotage”
Number of deaths: 124

22. Nimtoli Fire (India)

This fire started in the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. It is speculated that the fire was fuelled by chemicals and other flammable products that were stored in shops. The combustible materials caused the blaze to quickly spread between the densely populated residential area.

Year of fire: 2010
Cause of fire: Electrical transformer exploded
Number of deaths: 124

21. Club Cinq-Sept Nightclub Fire (France)

Club Cinq-Sept was a nightclub just outside Saint-Laurent-du-Pont in France. The club was very popular with the young with most of the victims of this tragedy were under the age of 30 and many of them teenagers. The nightclub was constructed and decorated with highly flammable and combustible materials which allowed the fire to spread at a rapid rate.

Year of fire: 1970
Cause of fire: Discarded match
Number of deaths: 146

20. Perm Lame Horse Club Fire (Russia)

This fire started when fireworks ignited the low ceilings and the very combustible willow twig covering. The nightclub was celebrating it’s eighth anniversary at the time of the fire.

Year of fire: 2009
Cause of fire: Sparks from fireworks
Number of deaths: 153

19. Ozone Disco Club Fire (Philippines)

This fire is officially acknowledged as the worst fire in Philippine history.

Year of fire: 1996
Cause of fire: Sparks flying inside the DJ’s booth according to witness statements.
Number of deaths: 162

18. Seoul Hotel Fire (South Korea)

This fire started on Christmas Day in 1971.

Year of fire: 1971
Cause of fire: Cigarette carelessly discarded
Number of deaths: 162

17. Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire (US)

This fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire Southgate, Kentucky is the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.

Year of fire: 1997
Cause of fire: Unknown, although claims that arson may have been the cause of the fire.
Number of deaths: 165

16. Piper Alpha Oil Platform Explosions (North Sea)

This disaster was the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost and industry impact. Oil and gas fuelled fires erupted after an explosion on the platform.

Year of fire: 1988
Cause of fire: Condensate leak
Number of deaths: 167

15. Kader Toy Factory Fire (Thailand)

The Kader toy factory manufactured toys for export to the United States and other developed countries. Toys were produced for household names such as Disney and Mattel. This fire is considered the worst industrial factory fire in history.

Year of fire: 1993
Cause of fire: Unknown
Number of deaths: 188

14. Joelma Building Fire (Brazil)

The Joelma Building is a 25-story building in São Paulo, Brazil. A fire broke out after an air conditioning unit overheated on the twelve floor of the building. Flammable materials had been used to furnish the interior which caused the whole building to be engulfed in flames within 20 minutes.

Year of fire: 1974
Cause of fire: Air conditioning unit overheating
Number of deaths: 188

13. República Cromagnon Nightclub Fire (Argentina)

The fire in this nightclub broke out when a pyrotechnic flare was set off and ignited foam in the ceiling. There were around 3,000 people in the building at the time.

Year of fire: 2004
Cause of fire Pyrotechnic flare
Number of deaths: 194

12. Daegu Subway Fire (South Korea)

The Daegu subway fire was the mass murder of 198 people. An arsonist named Kim Dae-han set fire to a stopped train. The fire quickly spread to a second train that had entered the station from the opposite direction.

Year of fire: 2003
Cause of fire: Arson
Number of deaths: 198

11. Santa Maria Kiss Nightclub Fire (Brazil)

This disastrous fire is considered the second most-devastating fire in the history of Brazil. Many of of the nightclubs customers were college students who were about to return to school.

Year of fire: 2013
Cause of fire: Illegal firework device
Number of deaths: 241

10. Dongdu Commercial Shopping Center Fire (China)

Most of the victims in this fire died in the disco area of the shopping center, which was illegal and privately run.

Year of fire: 2000
Cause of fire: Renovation work in the basement
Number of deaths: 309

9. L’Innovation Department Store Fire (Belgium)

The five story building took only 10 minutes to be completely engulfed in flames.

Year of fire: 1967
Cause of fire: Speculated arson attack
Number of deaths: 322

8. Karamay Fire (China)

This fire is considered one of the worst civilian fires in the history of the People’s Republic of China. A fire broke out in a theatre hosting 1,000 children and teachers.

Year of fire: 1994
Cause of fire: Spot lights near the stage either short-circuited or fell
Number of deaths: 324

7. Comayagua Prison Fire (Honduras)

This is the deadliest prison fire in recorded history and took place in Honduras.

Year of fire: 2012
Cause of fire: Unknown, although a mattress set alight during a riot could have been the cause
Number of deaths: 360

6. Paraguay Supermarket Fire (Paraguay)

Survivors of the fire and volunteer fire-fighters alleged that when this fire broke out, doors within the complex were deliberately closed under the direction of the owner.

Year of fire: 2004
Cause of fire: Faulty barbecue chimney
Number of deaths: 396

5. Cinema Rex Fire (Iran)

It is unknown who started this fire but there was a politic agenda for setting the Cinema Rex ablaze.

Year of fire: 1978
Cause of fire: Arson
Number of deaths: 422

4. Kanungu Church Fire (Uganda)

This church was the headquarters of a cult in Uganda and the fire was started for the mass suicide of it’s followers.

Year of fire: 2000
Cause of fire: Arson
Number of deaths: 530

3. Dayananda Anglo Vedic Private School Fire (India)

This inferno swept through a tent in a walled courtyard, wiping out entire families in minutes.

Year of fire: 1995
Cause of fire: Electrical short circuit
Number of deaths: 538

2. Dabwali Tent Fire (India)

This fire spread quickly and blocked the main entrance of a synthetic tent which had been constructed to host an annual prize distribution function. Many of the deaths were caused by the resultant stampede, as hundreds tried to escape through the single exit door.

Year of fire: 1995
Cause of fire: Electric generator short-circuited
Number of deaths: 540

1. Cinema Fire (China)

There is not a lot known about this fire but it is the deadliest fire in China’s history.

Year of fire: 1977
Cause of fire: Unknown
Number of deaths: 667