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KENVIL, N. J., Friday, Sept. 13 -
Twenty-seven are known dead,
twenty-five more are missing and
believed dead, and about 200 are injured,
including 120 in hospitals, as
a result of a series of explosions beginning
at 1:30 o'clock yesterday
afternoon, during a fire that swept
the Hercules Powder Company
plant here, and was still smouldering
early this morning. There were
two major explosions in quick succession,
in which most of the damage
was done. Later several minor
explosions occurred.
Last midnight eighteen of the dead
had been identified, and nine other
bodies had been removed from the
wreckage, but had not been identified.
Searchers were still digging
in the ruins for the twenty-five still
unaccounted for, but were having
difficulty because of extreme heat
and darkness. Every now and then
new fires started as tanks of alcohol
ignited. Some of those in hospitals are in serious condition and the death toll may exceed fifty.
Woman Sends First News
Of the Disaster by Radio
KENVIL, N. J., Sept. 12 — The
first word of the powder plant
explosion to reach the outside
world was sent at 1:31 P. M.,
just one minute after the blast
occurred, by Mrs. Angie Washer,
operator of the Morris Plains fire
tower, twelve miles from the
Mrs. Washer saw the explosion,
ascertained its exact location and
then sent the report over her two-way
radio to headquarters and all
parts of the State. Word was relayed
at once to police and fire
companies, and at the same time
members of the Forest Fire
Service rushed to the scene with
portable two-way radio equipment.
The equipment was used
on the grounds to augment the
few remaining telephone lines to
the outside.
At 1 o'clock this morning the
search was dropped to await daylight.
William C. Hunt of Wilmington,
Del., director of operations for the
company, announced the number
of dead and injured after making
an inspection of the scene with
Colonel Henry Marsh, the company's
smokeless powder expert.
$1,000,000 Property Damage
According to Mr. Hunt, who came
here from Wilmington, made an inspection of the scene, and then talked with reporters
outside the gates in an interview that had to be conducted by flashlight because the explosions
put the power plants out of commission. He said that property damage was at
least $1,000,000, and might run to
Mr. Hunt said the explosions were
preceded by a fire in the solvent
recovery building, in a tank containing
16,000 pounds of smokeless
powder being processed. The explosions,
he explained, spread the
fire to adjoining buildings, fifteen
or twenty of which were destroyed
over a half-mile square area. He
added that 50,000 pounds of smokeless
powder was destroyed.
At the time of the first blast, he
continued, about seventy-five men
were working in the solvent recovery
building, a new structure that
had been in operation for only a
week. Eye-witnesses reported, he
asserted, that the survivors who
staggered from the building were
so dazed they did not know what
had happened.
Mr. Hunt said it had been impossible
to learn how the fire started,
but that no evidence of sabotage
had been discovered. He said the
plant, which was the second largest
producer of smokeless powder in
the United States, was working almost
entirely on orders for the
United States Army, and was not
making anything for shipment
No One Suspected
Asked if any members of the
German-American Bund were employed
in the plant, Mr. Hunt replied:
"We do not suspect anyone. It
was an explosion that cannot be
accounted for."
Although Mr. Hunt said the plant
was working for the United States
Government, he declined to affirm
or deny when asked directly if some
of its product was being made for
the British.

Sept. 13, 1940 edition of "The New York Times"

article | by Dr. Radut