Natural Born Killers

To try to make some sense of the senseless bombings in London this week, my friend Scyld & I spent some time researching the death tolls from various disasters, wars and atrocities last night while polishing off our third bottle of wine.

The fabulous Wikipedia turned out to have a wealth of information, with articles about any event we could think of (including this week’s bomb attacks in London). There’s also a very handy List of Wars and Disasters by Death Toll.

It seems that humans have an amazing aptitude for exterminating one another. The “Big Daddy” is still the World War II, where it’s estimated that approximately 57 million people were snuffed out by other members of their species (roughly equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom or Italy).

In terms of terrorist attacks, 9/11 tops the table by a huge margin, with 2,992 people — an order of magnitude greater than the #2 terrorist attack, the Beslan School Siege in Russia in 2004, in which 344 people died.

The highest death toll of any terrorist attack in the UK, and #5 in the global list, is the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988, when Pan Am flight 103 was brought down over Scotland killing all 270 people aboard — most of whom were young Americans returning from an overseas study program (I dated an American woman in London some years ago who claimed she was supposed to have been on that flight, but instead chose to remain in the UK).

This little research project certainly puts this week’s London bombings into perspective, albeit a very depressing one — they currently rank at #22 in a shameful list of terrorist atrocities, although could possibly move up the list to #21 or #20 if there are a few more casualties in the coming days.

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