THE VIENNA THEATRE TRAGEDY
(Per s.s. Zealand!a, at Auckland.) Vienna, Dec. 10.
On the arrival of the fire brigade upon the scene, it was found impossible to penetrate beyond the first tier of the theatre, the i:ush of suffocating smoke and air extinguishing the lamps and torches. The firemen retired momentarily, under the impression that because their shouts were not answered that there were not more people in the theatre besides those who escaped on the first alarm. An attempt was then made to penetrate parts of the threatre which were not actually blazing. In the narrow passage between the second and third galleries masses of corpses were discovered, some so closely interlocated that it was hardly possible to part them. The first man discovered was M. (Jot alive, but all the rest were dead. These were persons who had lost their way in consequence of the turning off of the gas, which it is now ascertained was done by some irresponsible person, with a view to prevent an explosion. Some men were found grasping each others throats. A subsequent investigatioa showed in some cases that persons finding escape hopeless committed suxide. It is stated by survivors that women were seen to throw they - children from the galleries into the p-jt at the time of the outbreak of flames| About 10 o’clock the gasometer explodec, the roof fell, and the whoKi place was reduced to a wreck. The Vienna fire department proved i'tself supremely inefficient. There was only one fire-engine giving a stream scarcely larger than a finger, and it could not reach-the upper portion of the house. The hand engines were only fed from waterbutts filled from barrels driven into the ground. There was no fire-escape, and the ladders came late on the ground, and when they arrived much time was lost in planting them. There' was a fgreat display of military, who kept order, but of efficieit firemen and apparatus there was a lamentable lack. The gallery espedallf allotted to ladies was full, and in one passage of the theatre without an outlet forty persons lost their way, and being unable to return, were suffocated. The sight of wives searching for their husbands, children looking for parents, and parents tor children, was heartrending. The immense crowd stood silent as death watching the farms. The telegraph office, only two minutes’ walk from the fire, was crowded; by persons who had escaped from thejfire, and who informed their friends Jmd relatives of their safety to allay fears. Many Americans cabled homt! that they were among the living. Among the missing are young Count Sigismund and several other students from the private Military College. The generally accepted theory of the origin of the fire is the accidental upsetting of a small spirit lamp. The first act of « Count! Hoffman” represents a student in a beef house, in which the lamp is used. This set fire to one of the scenes, md the flames extended in a * momen - ; to the flies. The theatre, an hour before the performance commenced, was thoroughly examined to see- that all proper precautions were taken to guard against fire. The ] theatre was capable of holding 1760, but some portions were empty. Subscriptions have been opened by all the Vienna papers for the relief of the sufferers. I Among the victims is one entire aroily of seven. Many bodies feet, which were torn off in l'ie struggle for life. One beautiful , yonaglady lost both arms. There was n firhp gauze ’ curtain ready to be let down in„each wirg in case pf emerand. it was supposed to be at'ft. Special mechanic, well duties. Had this curtain - «.nrobable that every
person in the theatre would have escaped, but either the attendant could hot find the key to the apparatus box, or was also seized with panic. At all events, he saved his own life at the expense of five or six hundred or more lives, for whom Vienna is mourning to-day. Herr Foster, who built this death-trap, styled the Ring Theatre, says that had this curtain been lowered the fire would not have extended beyond the stage. A young man thus tells the story of his escape from the theatre :—On Thursday afternoon I met my sister at the station. She was returning home from Vienna. I greeted her with the words, “ I have a surprise for you. I have two seats for the Ring Theatre.” At half past six we took our seats in the first row of the gallery. When the fire came out through the curtains I felt a fearful heat in my face. My sister, leaning her head on my breast, sobbing said, “ Moritz, we must die now ! ” Quick as thought I grasped her, trembling as she was in every limb, and dragged her with me. In spite of the smoke we reached the stairs and escaped; but we were almost alone.”
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THE VIENNA THEATRE TRAGEDY, Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 531, 11 January 1882
THE VIENNA THEATRE TRAGEDY Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 531, 11 January 1882
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