14 reasons why 2016 was just the worst year ever

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Death, destruction and division. You guessed it: it's 2016.

There's no denying that every year throws out a fair amount of rubbish for us all to deal with, but after tumultuous political disputes, the deaths of numerous cultural icons and continuing environmental crises in our oceans and skies, 2016 really does have to be a contender for the worst year in living memory.

Here are 13 reasons why:

1. David Bowie died

(Yui Mok PA Wire/PA)
Bowie died two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his last studio album, Black Star (Yui Mok PA Wire/PA)

It started badly. Just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of his 25th studio Album, Black Star, Bowie passed away in his New York apartment on January 10, having kept his 18-month battle with cancer hidden from fans.

With barely enough time for critics to hail Black Star a triumphant addition to his formidable back-catalogue, the public quickly set about expressing widespread shock and devastation at the loss of one of Britain's true musical heroes.

2. Alan Rickman died

(Yui Mok/PA)
Rickman had been a beloved part of the Harry Potter franchise and countless Hollywood movies such as Die Hard (Yui Mok/PA)

Four days after the news that David Bowie had departed this world, the beloved Alan Rickman died in hospital in London, having also concealed that he'd been suffering from terminal cancer.

The star of countless films, including a critically acclaimed performance in the Harry Potter franchise as the anti-hero Severus Snape, had suffered a minor stroke in August 2015, leading to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis which ultimately claimed his life just five months later. We did say it started badly...

3. Brussels Bombings

(Virginia Mayo AP/PA)
Marchers gather a memorial to victims of the Brussels attacks during a march against hate in Brussels in April (Virginia Mayo AP/PA)

As spring reared its head, news struck on the morning of March 22 that Brussels' Zaventem airport had been subjected to a callous bombing attack by suspected Islamic extremists living in the Belgian capital.

A few hours later, following a second bombing at a city-centre Metro station, 32 people lay dead and European ministers struggled through turmoil as critics raised sharp concerns about the effectiveness of the country's intelligence services.

4. Istanbul coup attempt

(Burhan Ozbilici AP/PA)
People gather around a bombed-out car in Kizilay Square, Ankara, in protest against the failed coup (Burhan Ozbilici AP/PA)

On July 15, separatist factions within the Turkish military attempted to take strategic components of the national infrastructure, including government buildings in Ankara and Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

The coup ultimately failed within 24 hours, but created chaos inside Turkey, including through a purge of independent media outlets, which quickly became state controlled. In total, over 300 people died in the conflict, and thousands more experienced a scarring 24 hours of fighting and barricaded conditions in Ataturk Airport.

5. Harambe

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A boy is led away after putting flowers beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The killing of a 17-year-old male silverback gorilla named Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo received widespread attention in May, and stirred heated public debate about animal enclosures and their standards of care.

Zoo keepers became alarmed after a three-year-old boy scaled a fence and crawled into the gorilla enclosure, whereupon the inquisitive Harambe came to investigate and started to drag the child through the surrounding moat. One of the keepers killed him with a single gunshot, sparking controversy and outrage from animal lovers, who argued that the killing was unnecessary and that the child's parents should be held accountable.

6. Zika Virus

(Felipe Dana AP/PA)
A mother holds her one-year-old son, who has been born with Microcephaly as a result of the Zika infection during pregnancy (Felipe Dana AP/PA)

Zika virus caught the attention of the world's media earlier in the year, due to concerns about the rate at which the disease was being passed on in Latin America.

Whilst the symptoms of the illness don't tend to be devastating in themselves, the risk posed to pregnant women is extremely high because of the effects it can have on unborn children, who may be born with microcephaly - a shrunken head, which can lead to developmental problems and poor eyesight, hearing and seizures.

7. Orlando Shootings

(Loren Elliott/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)
The shootings at Pulse night club in Orlando left 49 dead and 12 wounded in June (Loren Elliott/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

When 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered the Pulse gay club with an automatic rifle, onlookers said that few people had a chance to escape as he shot indiscriminately into the crowd.

With 49 dead and 12 wounded, the Orlando incident became one of the worst mass shootings of recent years, dwarfing the likes of the San Bernardino attack in 2015.

8. Brexit

(Nick Ansell/PA)
Nigel Farage campaigning in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on the day before Britain voted to leave the EU (Nick Ansell/PA)

Wherever you stand on Britain's vote to leave the EU politically, it's hard to argue with the fact that the aftermath has been chaotic. From a complete overhaul of the front benches of government, to a 42% increase in reported hate crimes in the weeks after the vote, Brexit got everyone down.

It's not over yet. From continued party in-fighting, to the two or more years of negotiations enabling Britain to leave the union, we can only be sure of one thing: there's a lot more bickering left to do.

9. Muhammad Ali died

(David Goldman AP/PA)
Ali was hailed by many as the greatest boxer of all time, and a leading civil rights advocate (David Goldman AP/PA)

A boxer, a civil rights activist, and cultural icon like no other, Muhammad Ali was widely hailed as the greatest boxer of all time. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1942, Ali converted to Islam and received attention for his objection to the Vietnam war, for which he was imprisoned after refusing to serve with the US military after being conscripted.

In his later years, Ali suffered from Parkinson's disease, but continued an active role in politics and civil rights. His death marked the end of one of the most notable lives of the 20th and 21st centuries.

10. Great Barrier Reef declared 'dead'

(AP Photo/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
A diver surveys damage to the reef after a Chinese coal carrier ran aground in the area in April 2010 (AP Photo/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

When an obituary by Rowan Jacobsen declaring the Great Barrier Reef dead appeared on Outside Online in October, the article received widespread recognition and an outpouring of public grief for our collective mismanagement of the world's oceans.

Thankfully, Jacobsen's piece was written to draw attention to the issue of ocean acidification, which has so far killed off 22% of the Reef, without destroying it in its entirety - yet. Nevertheless, the disastrous environmental damage from fossil fuels and ocean trawling means that the Reef could indeed disappear within our lifetimes unless drastic action is taken. It's not looking good.

11. Trump

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The phenomenon of America electing its first president never to have held public office is seen as a triumph of the underdog by some - and a political travesty by others.

Trump has been criticised for running a negative campaign, which targeted Mexican immigrants, threatened to ban Muslims from entering the US and drew condemnation for historic misogynistic comments made in his capacity as a reality TV show personality. Within hours of being elected, protests gathered in the streets in numerous cities across America, including outside Trump Tower in New York, declaring that he was "not my president".

12. American police shootings

(David Carson AP/PA)
Two women embrace one another at a memorial ceremony for Michael Brown, who was shot dead by police in 2014 (David Carson AP/PA)

When 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, his death sparked nationwide protests and a movement that gained potency in 2016 with the deaths of numerous more unarmed black men.

This year, the Black Lives Matter movement gained international recognition for its aversion to police brutality, as further shootings of unarmed black men by police occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Charlotte, North Carolina and San Diego in California.

13. Leonard Cohen died

(PA Wire)
Leonard Cohen performs on stage at Wembley Arena in north London (PA Wire)

The death of beloved popular icons continued in November. The incorrigibly brilliant Leonard Cohen parted company with the Earth and left a musical legacy that spanned 50 years, 14 studio albums and numerous compilations.

Cohen retained a mystic quality in his music that drew a devoted following and numerous covers of songs such as Hallelujah, which became culturally iconic in themselves.

14. George Michael died

George Michael on stage for Wham's last sell out concert at Wembley Stadium
George Michael performing at the final Wham! concert at Wembley Stadium (PA)

December came, and Christmas day itself, and things still wouldn't improve. It was announced that George Michael, one of the world's most loved pop stars, had died "peacefully at home" aged 53.

The superstar had hits across four decades and despite the sense of loss felt with his passing, there was some positivity that followed as incredible stories about the Singing Greek's generosity were unearthed.

Nonetheless, it was another giant claimed in 2016.

Let's hope 2017 is a bit more bearable.