"DYING BY HUNDREDS."
INFLUENZA IN CAPETOWN
The following graphic details of the terrible sufferings of Capetown from the influenza scourge are contained in :i private letter from the head sister of the New Somerset Hospital which has been received in this country: — We have had a most terrible time in Capetown, and, in fact, all over South Africa, with Spanish influenza. It has upset everything: the rush in Capetown, has been so dreadful that every one j who was not ill has been worked to the ; limit. At first we laughed and joked j about the "'flu,",, but in a few days! people began to be; ill by the dozens; the sickness was very violent, very short, and very fatal. Before the first week was out they were dying as if with a plague, by the scores, and later by the hundreds. The deaths, started at 20 a day, and before many days were over mounted up to 500 and even 600 a. day. In two weeks 6000 people died, and Capetown was like a city of the dead. In the hospital here the servants took ill first,then all the laundry people, then porters and ward maids; last of all the doctors and nursing staff. The people . died in the- streets; at one time big covered waggons patrolled the streets to pick up the jdead. A house-to-house visitation was started, and the most terrible state of affairs was discovered; whole families stricken, the dead and living in the same beds, no food in the house, no one able to crawl about to get it; hundreds of people starving because they could not get out to get. food; all delivery carts stopped, no one to drive them; shops shut, the people being ill; business houses shut up; trains and trams stopped running; theatres, bioscopes, and churches all empty and closed. It was like the Great Plague of London. In the great cemetery six miles out of Capetown there were .no people to dig the graves; people [carried their friends and relatives from a motor-car to the plots, and had to dig the graves themselves; often they were s.o. weak that they could only dig 1 two or three feet deep, and as they turned to £;et the body they had brought other people came and threw the bodies of their friends into the grave others had
! dug; fights ensued, and the scenes were ! terrible. No. .clergymen or priests to ; bury anyone. At the height of the plague there were no coffins, and the people, rich and poor, were buried in ; blankets. The bodies turned black some hours before death, and the stench from them a day, or oven two days, before they died was like a pestilence. Relief parties were organised, and the military were called out to dig graves. Doctors and nurses worked till they dropped, and others, to keep themselves well, never went to their homes, • but slept somewhere else with the door locked, as otherwise they could get _yo sleep. I Telephones were not used —nearly all the exchange people ill, and the doctors disconnected their 'phones, as, otherwise, the thing, never stopped ringing. The town and suburbs were portioned '. out to the doctors who kept well, and ; if they fell ill that district was left without a doctor. . In the hospital here we were crowded out. and all the staffs short. On night ■ duty it was terrible; at times, we had 400 patients, and several times 1 only had 10 night nurses on duty. My nurses worked like heroes: never can I j tell how fully they lived up to the highest traditions of their profession, i Young nurses, most of thorn, we were all working at more than our best, the j dead and dying all round, and death j in a terrible form too, many shrieking jto the last in a terrible delirium. Yet my nurses never faltered; they knew it was almost impossible for them to escape, getting it: still, steady, brave, loyal girls, they never failed me, and at times 1 had to ask such big things of them; none ever said "No." Night after night some of them got ill and had to be forced to bed; when there j wero no others left to take their places , tTiose remaining on duty did double work. How we did it. 1 do not know. Out of a staff of 110, only 12 or 14 ; escaped the- disease. All the doctors j-were down at one time or another; we : lost one doctor and one of the porters. I Although many of the nursing staff ! were "very near death, we saved them •all. ' Things have eased down now,, and what is left is a number of people suffering from the effects of getting about too early; they have developed a kind of chronic pneumonia. The nurses are nearly all on duty again now. and the past six weeks is like a bad dream that could surely never have been real.
Permanent link to this item
"DYING BY HUNDREDS.", Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9588, 16 April 1919
"DYING BY HUNDREDS." Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9588, 16 April 1919
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.