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Fire on a Steamer.

HUNDREDS OF LIVES IN PERIL. SENSATIONAL SCENES ON THE ATLANTIC. On the arrival of the Hamburg-American Company's mail .steamship Rugia in Plymouth Sound on May 12, from New York to Cherbourg and Hamburg, Captain R. Karlowa reported that the ship had a narrow escape from being burned to the water's edge. She left New York on May 2nd with 168 passengers for England, France, and Germany, and a large general cargo for Hamburg consisting principally of cotton and lard. All were well and the ship had made a tine passage till 8 p.m. on May lth, when in latitude 47deg. 10 mm. north and longitude 31deg. west, without any previous warning whatever, flames issued from the ventilators of the after hold. The officers and crew were for a moment dumbfounded, as no smell had been detected and there was no previous indication of the conflagration, which must have been smouldering before the ship left New York. The passengers became panic-stricken, for it appeared certain that the crew could not master the flames. Captain Karlowa, however, ordered all hands to the pumps. The hatches wore taken off, when instantly a body of flame rose in the air, showing the extensive character of the fire. Realising the danger of exposing the fire to the air. Capt. Karlowa shouted, " Batten down the hatches," and the men at great risk performed the task, many of them beiny seriously scorched. It was impossible to ascertain the seat of the tire. Captain Rarlowa, with a few experienced men, went on the main deck and opened the iron bulkhead doors. A volume of fire belched forth, scorching the face and hands of the captain and others, but they rushed forward and fastened the doors again, thus confining the conflagration to the after hold. They at once repaired to the upper deck, and holes having been cut in the hatches, the pum]>s were set to work and immense quantities of water poured into the burning hold. It was all to no 2>urpose, for in half an hour's time j the fire seemed to be increasing in fury and the terrific heat could be felt through the iron deck. The cabins on the main deck were flooded and the passengers had to fly to the upper decks. In the ourse of time the ship had a nasty list to port, which of course increased the work of extinguishing the flames. Captain Karlowa, anticipating the worst erdered all tho boats to be provisioned and got ready for launching. About an hour and a half after the outbreak the port, starboard and after lifeboats wore provisioned and lowered. There was a nasty beam sea running at the time. Two or three sailors attempted to jump into the lifeboats, when Captain Karlowa drew a revolver and threatened to blow out the brains of the first man who did so without permission. The fire seemed to have gained the mastery, 1 -it Captain Karlowa decided to try the of ' Vet of steam on the flames, at the same time directing Chief Engineer J. Junge to put the engines at full speed ahead, with a view of making Plymouth, even if the fire could not be subdued. Jets were fixed, and in place of water steam was pumped into the burning hold. For a time it seemed as if the fire was as fierce as ever, but in two houis the steam had an appreciable effect. When this was observed a cheer went up from the passengers, and the work was continued. An hour later the fire was so subdued as to allow the hatches to bo removed. Finding bales of cotton still smouldering, Karlowa resolved on throwing them overboard, dangerous and difficult as this would be. The process of hauling the burning bales out by means of grappling irons was very slow, but after further pumping of steam and working of the hose some of the sailors descended into the hold and hooked the bales on to the steam winch. As the bales came into the open air it was seen that they were a mass of subdued fire. The flames were got under control shortly after midnight. The passengers have presented the captain with an address and the crow with various gifts as evidences of gratitude and esteem for their work in the midst of the awful dangers that encompassed them all*

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Bibliographic details

Fire on a Steamer., Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XVI, Issue 5519, 6 July 1889

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Fire on a Steamer. Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XVI, Issue 5519, 6 July 1889