What Are the Weirdest Floods Ever?

Most of the floods that make the news bring a deluge of water. But some are more unusual than that.

The London Beer Flood

In 1814, a 22-foot-tall vat of fermenting porter sat atop the roof of Meux's brewery in London, according to a historical story by the BBC. The vat was encircled by 29 metal hoops which, it turns out, were not quite strong enough to hold the beer inside. One of these hoops suddenly snapped and sent the beer spewing out with such force that it knocked into the other vats on the rooftop, and they burst too. The chain reaction sent nearly 325,000 gallons of beer (1,224,00 liters) cascading off the roof. The beer flooded the streets of the crowded slum below, demolishing two nearby houses. People grabbed containers and riotously scooped up the beer and in the ensuing chaos, nine people died some drowned, some were injured during the melee, and one reportedly died days later from alcohol poisoning.

The Pig Manure Flood

In the German village of Elsa, a tank that stored liquefied pig excrement burst open in 2006. About 52,800 gallons (240,000 liters) of greenish-brown pig excrement flooded the Bavarian village, becoming more than a foot and a half (one-half meter) deep in some places, and flooding into several homes, according to a BBC account of the incident.

The Octopus-Caused Flood

A curious octopus escaped from its tank one night and used one of its tentacles to tug open a valve at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in 2009. The creature released hundreds of gallons of water, and the aquarium staff arrived in the morning to find their offices flooded. None of the aquariums animals died in the incident, according to an Associated Press story.

The Boston Molasses Flood

A tank holding 2.5 million gallons of molasses, which could be fermented to make rum and industrial alcohol, suddenly burst on a January day in 1919, according to the Massachusetts Historical Society. The streets of Boson's North End neighborhood were inundated with the gooey mess, which knocked over a train and carried along barrels and boxes as it covered two city blocks, according to an account in Yankee Magazine. The cause of the flood was never officially determined theories ranged from sabotage to a structural defect in the tank. A court did determine, however, that insufficient safety inspections played a role in the disaster, which claimed 21 lives.

The Baked Tapioca Flood:

In what one firefighter called, "A huge tapioca time bomb," according to an Associated Press story, a cargo ship caught fire in 1972 and threatened to fill the Welsh harbor where it was docked with accidently-made tapioca pudding. Timber stacked in the ship's cargo hold had begun smoldering while the ship was at sea. When it docked, in an attempt to put out the blaze, fire fighters doused the ship with water. But the water ran down to ship's lower levels, where 1,500 tons of tapioca were stored. The tapioca expanded from the heat and the water, and some were afraid the flaming ship would burst, but fortunately, the fire was put out before this could happen.

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Karen Rowan
Health Editor
Karen came to LiveScience in 2010, after writing for Discover and Popular Mechanics magazines, and working as a correspondent for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. She holds an M.S. degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University, as well as an M.S. in cellular biology from Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to becoming a journalist, Karen taught science at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, in Lincolnshire, Ill. for eight years.