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'"THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD

The terrible disaster In Pennsylvania baa sent a thrill of horror throoghont Europe, as well as America, and the horrible details of the work of devastation have bees the all-absorbing topio of Interest. The extent of the calamity is so great as to be almost beyond comprehension, and contrary to the usual custom the estimated number of deaths increases m later reports come 10. The Oonemangh Valley, the sosne of the disaster, is 1 ttle more than a gorge In the Allegheny Mountains, about 18 miles long and only a few hundred yards In width, precipitous hiils rising on both sides. Two email creeks flow through it nnlting at the lower end into a shallow rapid streim called the Oonemaugh river At the head of the valley, high among the hills, was a huge body of water, formerly a natural lake, bnt olaee Increased to many tlmta its origin*! stza by artificial means. This was three and a half miles long;, over a mile wide, and m ?ome places 100 ft deep. To hold b»nk this Immense mats of water a dam 1000 ft wide, 110 ft higb, and with a thlokuead of 90ft at the base and 20ft at the top had been built. The lake, formerly a reservoir Intended to ■apply the Pennsylvania oanal, was five years ago bought by a group of prominent Pittsburgh people as a fishing and shooting l»ke. When the lake was bought by the present owners each sobaorlbed £1000, and the whole of the earthwork was thoroughly examined and considerably strengthened. The lafce ran east and west and was fed on all sides by mountain streams, which were of late, very much swollen. Scattered along below the dam through the valley were towßshlps* The largest of these was Johnstown, situate at the lower end, and containing 30,000 inhabitants. Just below Johnstown two creeks united to form the Oonemangh river, aorots which stretched a massive stone railway bridge belonging to the Pennsylvania railway. Suddenly, at about 4 o'olook m the afternoon, the dam gave way In the centre, In the words of an eye-wltnesa, the water seemed to leap, scarcely touching the ground, and bounding down tne valley, Its front, like a solid wall SOft hlgb, oraching, roaring and oarrylng everything before it. Houses went down before it, tottered for a moment, and then rote, crushing against one another like egg shells. The torrent flowed 18 miles to Johnstown, through a narrow, crooked valley, m less than an boar. The Gonemaugb, which was already flooded, rose 3ft m five minutes. The valley was transformed into the bed of a roaring, leaping river, 40ft deep In front, moving m a huge wave like a nail over the helpless towns. The first villages reaobed were inhabited ohiefly by working men, whose small wooden houses were swept away like straw and hurled m a mass upon Johnstown. When the advaoolng wave reached Johnstown it was 50ft deep, and was rushing on with an awful force, carry? Ing with it huge maases of loose earth, whioh oame from the mountain streams, together with .the wreckage of countless houses and hundreds of corpses, many horror-stricken shrieking human beings being whirled away with It, As the torrent passed over the city, Johnstown waa blotted out like a ohlld's house of land upon tie seashore. The Immense building* of the Cambria Iron Company, massively built of brick and extending a mile along the river bank, In which 7000 men were employed, disappeared with the rest of tha city. Xhe tail chimneys remained standing for a few minute*, but soon crumbled with the walls When the advanolng wave reached the railway bridge It sttuok It witb a great noise and stupendous foroe. Incredible as (t may seem, the structure did not give way, and a mighty dam was instantly formed, shotting off (be last hope from the submerged villagers. A mass of wreck, 60ft high and from 700 ft to 800 ft wide, was piled against the brtdge, which kept the water back, leaving Johnstown bnried under the lake 40a deep. Wedged into the mass of wreokaue were bodies terribly tnuttialed, many dead, and others shrieking m agony. Then oame the final to oca of horror. The mass oaught fire, probably fiom an overturned stove or some similar cause, •nd living and dead were alike burned to cinders. Into the finning mass was hurled floating wreckage with living victims screaming m terror as the fl.mea araclked and roared. Among the dry timber of the floating houses human beings were seen plntoned betweea the house roofs aud other rains, while the greedy flames were dosing round them. The scene was horrible beyond description. Infants a few days old and aged men and women were consumed before the ayes of the beholder, and their rescue was impossibe. The flames toon surrounded; the unfortunate shrieking human beings, and they were slowly roasted to death. Many In despair threw tbtmaelves into the water, and weie drowned or daahed to death agalnat the floating houses or ground between them and suffocated. Among the wreokape appeared portions of railway carriages and locomotives, and it was afterwards learned that two passenger trains on the Pennysylvanlan railway had been oaught m the torrent and the passengers drowned. Only the lefthand side of the bridge was blocked at first, and down the right hand side the ■tream rushed at at a tremendous rate, carrying hundreds of houses, with numbers of men, women, and children afloat on the wreckage, and inumerable corpses. Many oorpaes were oarrled as far as Pitts* burg, 80 miles lower down the river, and among the few who survived and floated down the stream was a woman who was discovered on a raft jn«t above Plttsburg perfectly naked, all her olothes having been stripped off her by the fliod. A few personal effects have been picked up 800 miles below Pittsburg, indicating that the corpses and decaying debris may carry the danger of Infection to a dlstanoe of near.y 400 miles from the scene of the disaster.

The total lon of life oan never be aoourately estimated, bat It is believed that upwards of 20,000 human beings were 1 drowned or burnt. The popnlttion of the ▼alley wa« about 60,000 aouJo, and though registry offices for the survivor* to register thelt names hsre been open for four days, only 18,000 bare been registered. It is equally Impossible to form an estimate of the loss of property, which mtut have bean enormotu. If Is doubtful If it is less than 50,000,000d01. The Otmbrla Company's plant was annihilate* aa far as water can destroy it, and the loss Is about ■even or eight million dollars. The Pennsylvania Railway Oompsny loses over 20 bridges, some of which were very costly, and several miles of solid stoneballasted railway traok have disappeared, One firm lost 30,000 gals of whiskey, snd another 5.000,000 logs of lumber. To thesa have to be added thousands of dwellings and smaller Josses to Individual farmers.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18890718.2.17

Bibliographic details

'"THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2176, 18 July 1889

Word Count
1,170

'"THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2176, 18 July 1889

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