Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monongah Disaster, Dec 7, 1907

Flames Break Out:All Efforts UnitedAgainst New Danger

Rescuers Withdrawn and Crowds Flee in Panic - Pour Water Into Depths and Shut Off Air to Smother Blaze-Now Under Control
By: John F Cowan, Staff Correspondent (Special Telegram to the Dispatch.)

BULLETIN FAIRMONT, W. Va. Dec 9 - At 2 o'clock officers of the mine announced fire under control and said rescue work would resume. Another body has just been taken from the mine.
Fairmont, WV, Dec 8 - Fire is adding to the horror of the Monongah mine disaster. Flames smoldering in the clouds of after damp today broke out afresh when air currents reached the workings and a second explosion is threatened.
At 4 o'clock this afternoon it was seen that the presence of the fire could no longer be concealed. The fans were stopped and the rescuers were ordered forthwith to the surface.
For the first time since Friday morning the heroes in the rescuing parties turned their backs on their ead comrades in the mines. If the flames are not soon extinguished there will be little hope of recovering many of the bodies which are hidden in the recesses of the frowning hill.
Tonight the work of rescue has been turned to a struggle to the death with the fire demon. Water has been piped into the mine and no effort that the human hand can make is being spared to win the battle with the new foe.
Extent of Fire Unknown: The fire was located by one of the rescuing parties, which had penetrated about 1500 feet into No 8 mine. Through the air holes leading to the surface and through fissure caused by the impact of the explosion smoke began to escape. The fire is in one of the left side entries of No 8 mine.
Tonight C. W. Watson, president of the company, stated that the serious were pressed back and left the scenes reluctantly until the guards announced that another explosion was liable to happen at any moment. Instantly the crowd scattered along the trolley tracks, over the hills and some ran pell mell across the bridge to the town.
There were some in the throng about the mine entrance, however, who did not join in the panic. These were men and women who had dear ones in the smoking entries. Instinctively they desired to remain, regardless of their own danger. Some had to be driven back from the fatal pits.
While the workers in the mines were assailing this new terror the work of relief was going on. The morgues were crowded and upon the hillside the bodies of some of the victims were being commited to the grave.
Clarence Hall, geologist in the technological section of the United States Geological Survey, who investigated the Naomi disaster at Fayette City, PA, earlier in the week is here pursuing his investigations for the Government. He entered the mines early today and will continue his work until the end of the week.
The first intimation that the general public received that the left entry to No 8 mine was on fire was when the men engaged in rescue work at No 8 mine were withdrawn this afternoon and the thousands of people who had been drawn to the mouth of the mine through curiosity were forced back by the police.
It was announced at that time that fire had been discovered in No. 8 mine and that a second explosion was feared. Everyone was warned to be as far away from the mine as possible but this appeared to make people more anxious to approach the mine. The rumor spread like wildfire that No 8 mine was on fire, and an explosion was feared in No. 6 from gas communicating with the flames.
A second explanation was that it was feared the gas in some of the sidings and rooms bratticed off might escape and imprison the rescue parties in No 8. who were farther in the mines.
It was declared there was no fire in the mine and that the reason the fan had been stopped at that mine was to allow the installation of the second motor fan and to prevent fresh air reaching any possible explosion that might occur.
Orders had been sent to No 6 mine to stop the big fan working there for fear of an explosion.
When the report of the fire was first received at the offices of the company at Monongah, an official denial was made and the same explanation given of the stopping of the fans as had been made at the two mines.... Later conditions became much worse and it was impossible to longer conceal the fact that fire had been discovered.
Sixty-Two Bodies Removed
Sixty-two bodies have been taken from the mines late tonight. This number will be augmented by at least thrity more before daylignt.
These figures are furnished by officials of the company, who today made the greatest efforts of any since the awful calamity in attempting to recover the deal. While more headway has been made, the herculean task of recoering scores of the bodies in any recogniziable shape has been abandoned, according to the opinion of mine experts on the scene.
But three bodies were removed from No 8 mine this afternoon, two being those of a motorman and a brakeman found near their car at the first left entry of the north heading, near where the third body was found. All were badly burned about the face and hands, but friends were able to recognize them at the morgue.
As fast as the bodies are removed from the mines they are being taken to the morgue and prepared for burial. After being placed in coffins they are taken to an adjoining room, where a steady stream of people file by all day long. When a body is recognized by relatives or friends the information is at once given to Coroner E. S. Amos, who has been on duty since the first body was brought from the mines.
Outside the morgue in the mud stands a shivering maw of humanity, many of the people having been there for hours, braving the cold to get a chance to once again gaze on the face of their dead ones. After the identification of the bodies and they are claimed by friends. Coroner Amos holds the inquest and permits the relatives to remove them to their homes. The bodies of all Polish miners are being removed to the Polish church just above Monongah as soon as they are identified and are being placed in the basement of that edifice.
The farther into the mines the workers proceed the greater the destruction is found to be. Many side entries and rooms are completely blocked by falls of slate. One room, where it was known two of the miners were working was entered but instead of finding the blackened bodies of the two miners, tons and tons of slate were found burying them so that it will be several days before their bodies can be recovered. The same condition of affairs is reported at meny other points in the inside.
Rapid Work at No 6
At No 6 mine today nearly a dozen bodies were recovered and removed to the morgue. All but three of these have been identified, as their condition was better than expected. The work at No 6 progressed rapidly, owing to the the condition of the powerful fan; there, until the rescuers were ordered from the mine because of the temporary cessation of work at No 8.
It was necessary to have a large force of mine guards, special officers and police from Fairmont to aid in holding the crowds in check at this point, owing to it being situated near Fairmont. The two mines are about a mile apart, being practically equally distant from Monongah. At both mines members of rescuing parties are being taken from the mines in weakened and unconscious condition but after being out of the mie a few hours they have fully recovered. None of the rescuers who have been overcome is now in a serious condition.
In the morning when the two fans are in full operation at No 8 and the big fan at No 6 began working properly, it is expected plenty of fresh air will be forced into both mines to provide for the rescuing parties, land, fresh men from distant mines will also be present to aid in the work. Inspector Paul tonight had the rescue parties divided into seven shifts consisting of six men and a boss. Every man is provided with a map of the mine, as many of them never were employed there.
Crowd Utterly Uncontrolled
The rapidity with which the remains began to be recovered late this afternoon and evening necessitated the coal company pressing into service a number of transfer wagons. These were filled with straw and the gruesome work of carting the charred remains across the river through the dense crowd began. Scapes that were sublimely pathetic transpired. The weeping of the bereaved ones as they madly chimed after the vehicles was heartrending. They overwhelmed the morgue in their clamors for a look at the dead and it was necessary to drive them back by force and draw ropes across the main street.
Pickets were stationed and the crowd thus held in check. It would only separate when the carraiges of death were forced through to take the bodies to the cemeteries.
3 Supposed Dead Alive and Well; One in Hospital
Patrik McDonald: Blown 100 Feet and Made Unconscious, Others on Visits
By W. A. Osborn, Staff Correspondent
Fairmont, WV, Dec 8 - Four of the supposed victims of the disaster were discovered to be alive today.
One of them, Patrick McDonald, terribly burned about the face and chest was discovered in a local hospital. He had just recovered consciousness and had been placed in the institution under the impression that he was a foreigner.
Word was immediately sent to his wife and children and there was a joyful reunion, which ended only when the physicians interfered, as they were fearful that the excitement would cause the man's death.
McDonald was working outside mine No 6 when the explosion occurred. He was just about to re-enter the mine when the concussion hurled him over 100 feet under the bridge leading to the tipple. He was a motorman in the mine and was supposed to have been on the ill-fated train that broke its coupling and dashed back into the mine, causing the explosion. He had been detained at the entrance an hour previous to handle some loaded cars on a siding. He will recover.
The other three men who were thought to be victims but escaped are Ross Marks, Marie Bagenells and Anebra Spaw. The two former went to Clarksburg, to visit some friends early in the morning of the explosion and did not notify their boarding boss of their intentions. They were given a royal reception when they appeared today.
Spaw, one of the men supposed to have been blown into the river at the entrance of mine No 6, was not at work that fateful morning. When he learned that his friends were mourning him as dead he lost no time in returning from a visit to Grafton.