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THE JOHNSTOWN DISASTER., Issue 7941, 24 June 1889
THE JOHNSTOWN DISASTER.
From a report received in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on May 31, we take the following : TDK RESERVOIR lies about two miles and a-hiilf to the northeast of Johnstown, and is the site of an old reservoir which was one of the feeders of the Pennsylvania Canal. This sheet of water was formerly known as Conemaugh Lake. It is from 200 ft to 300 ft above the level of Johnstown, in the mountain side, and is about three miles and a-half long and from a mile to a mile and a-quarter in width, and in some places 100 ft deep. It holds more water than any other reservoir—natural or artificial—in the United States. This lake had been quadrupled in size, and was held by a dam 700 ft to I,oooft wide. Recognising the menace which the lake held to the region below, the South Fork Club—which owned the reservoir—had the dam inspected once a month by a Pennsylvanian engineer, who reported that nothing but some convulsion of Nature would tear the barrier away. The steady rain of forty-eight hours increased the volumes of water in the small mountain streams, and it is evident that something in the nature of a cloud-burst must have occurred. A Budden freshet took place in the north fork of the river, east of Johnstown, and the latter city was Hooded ; whilst all the rivers in the neighborhood rose. THE CROWNING DISASTER, however, resulted at about five o'clock on the evening of May 31, when the reservoir broke and an immense volume of water rushed down into the valley below, carrying with it death and destruction. Johnstown was submerged and hundreds of lives lost. Houses were swept away by scores and carried along by the rußh of water, with people clinging to the roofs. At Camptown, a village of several hundred inhabitants, the houses were almost entirely covered, and a great many buildings in Blairsville were submerged. It is said that four-fifths of the town of South Fork (above Johnstown), containing .2,000 inhabitants, were swept away. The following townß also lay between the reservoir and Johnstown:—Mineral Point, 800 inhabitants; Conemaugh, 2,00,0; Woodville, 2,000. The first two were
in the valley, and it seems impossible to ' hope that auy of the inhabitants of Mine- j ral Point have escaped. At Conemaugh ! there was a possibility of the spreading of ( the flood and the breaking of its force, but it is supposed that the town is devastated. Neighboring towns were flooded through the rising of the rivers. All the telegraph wires in the locality are down, and the information which had come to hand when the mail steamer left San Francisco was meagre. THE LOSS OF LIFE cannot be estimated. There is c.o communication with Johnstown, but the telegraph operator in Pennsylvania railway tower says at least seventy-five bodies have floated past. Later information comes through the Pennsylvania railway oflicials, who state I that over 200 dead bodies have floated down | the stream at Johnstown alone, while along i the line many additional lives have been lost. It is asserted that there are only two houses in Johnstown entirely above the water line. At a point near New Florence eighty-five persons have been seen floating down the river on driftwood. The Coketown and New Florence Bridges have been washed away, with all the buildings between New Florence and Johnstown. Superintendent Pitcairn promptly took charge of the rail-, way, and began "the double duty of clearing the tracks and sending aid to those in danger. The difficulty of obtaining definite information added tremendously to the excitement and apprehension of people who had friends at the scene of the disaster. People are eagerly waiting news at the telegraph offices, and great uneasiness prevails. IH'.STKL'CTION ()!•• I'ROI'KRTY. Scarcely a dwelling in the vicinity of Sunk Hollow can be seen. The bridges at Bolivar and Nineveh, it is reported, have given way. Johnstown lay a mile below Woodville, and was one of a cluster of towns, including Cambria city, with a total population of :10,000. Stretching along the river's verge were the immense iron works of the Cambria Iron and Steel Company, who had . r ),000,000dol invested in their plant. How badly these and other industrial establishments on the bank of the river are damaged cannot he estimated. All the wires of the Pennsylvania Railway west of Wilmore station on the Pittsburg division are down. Three New Vork trains are laid up at Latonia unable to proceed because of the floods. The bridge at South Fork was washed away, and the telegraph tower and other buildings, with portion of the east-bound freight train, carried away, and several railway employes drowned. Denpatches received up to midnight at the office of the Pennsylvania Railway indicate that the situation is hourly growing worse. Landslips are reported along the line between Harrisburg and Altona. The New York, Limited, easternbound express had a narrow escape. Immediately after the train passed over the South Fork Bridge that structure was swept away by the water. The tracks of Johnstown are entirely destroyed. In some places the river for some distance ia filled with buildings and driftwood 30ft high, which is on fire, and likely to damage the bridge. The fire is beyond control. Reports from Piedmont, Huntington, Tyrone, Harrisburg, Altona, and Williamsfort state that great damage was caused by the floods. The destruction at Piedmont is terrible, and it is estimated the loss will reach 250,000d01. Crops are ruined everywhere ; houses, barns, fences, and lumber swept away, In one case loss of life is reported, the victim being a child. The tempest raged with terrific violence throughout Indiana, Westmoreland, Blair, Huntington, Muffin, Juniata, and Perry Counties, carrying away telegraph posts and wires, flooding and washing out railways, and converting a mountain stream into a, torrent, carrying death and devastation along with it. IIKARTREXDISf: SCKN US. Johnstown ia literally wiped out of existence. At Braddock a boy was rescued by men in the signal tower of the railway company at Sunk Hollow. He said that, with hfa father, mother, brother, and two sisters at Sunk Hollow, he was swept away from the building. The other members of the family in it were swept over the breast of the stoue wall of the road bridge at Johnstown. It capsized a few seconds later, and all were drowned. Railway operators reported that they were able to count 119 persons cliDging to buildings. The people of Johnstown were warned of the impending floods early in the afternoon, but no person living near the reservoir knew the dam had given way until the great flood swept the houses off their foundations, and escape was impossible. As early as one o'clock the railway officials were notified that there was danger from the dam, and they in a very short time began to carry people to places of safety by regular trains and hastily improvised rescuing trains.
THE JOHNSTOWN DISASTER., Issue 7941, 24 June 1889
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