New Waterford, NS Coal Mine Explosion, July 1917
MINE DISASTER AT CAPE BRETON.
OFFICIAL ESTIMATE PLACES NUMBER OF DEAD AT 62 -- MANY ARE BADLY INJURED.
HEROIC WORK BY RESCUE PARTY -- BELIEVED DAMAGE TO PIT IS ONLY SMALL.
Sydney, N.S., July 25. -- The worst explosion in the history of the Cape Breton coalfields occurred at 7:30 o'clock this morning in No. 2 colliery of the New Waterford district.
An official estimate received here places the number of dead at sixty-two, including thirty native miners, twenty-two Newfoundlanders, and ten foreigners.
About 270 men were in the mine when the explosion occurred. Colliery officials express surprise that the loss of life was no greater.
Up to a late hour this afternoon, when the last news reached here, only a small number of bodies had been taken up. The greater number will lie where they are till tomorrow.
Great crowds of people, including weeping women and children, still surround the pit mouth. General Superintendent Tonge and a group of officials, who were early on the spot, went through the colliery this afternoon, and report the workings and ventilations are in normal condition. There was no sign of fire. It is inferred from the report that damage to the pit is small. Work is expected to be resumed within a short time. Hiram Donkin, shief inspector of mines, is expected at the scene of the disaster shortly.
The explosion occurred between Nos. 6 and 7 landings, about 2,100 feet down the slope. As to how it happened officials are reticent or profess to be unable to say. Forty or fifty men were working at No. 6 landing when the explosion took place. Though there is fear that all will have been killed, either by the explosion itself or by deadly gas fumes, the rescue parties are making superhuman efforts to see if any can yet be saved.
A number of men working at No. 7 when the disaster occurred are among the badly injured, and some others are believed to be among the killed. Some of the men from this landing, however, are known to be among the saved, but with those believed dead at No. 6 and those killed or suffocated in other parts of the colliery, the death-list is expected to run close to 80.
A number of the rescued miners were driven temporarily insane by the explosion, and the gas which swept through the mine. In some cases they had to be put under restraint in order to protect them from their own violence.
St. Anthony's school-room and the parish hall have been fitted up as temporary emergency hospitals, and scores of the injured and gassed men are now being treated there by doctors from different points and by nurses from Glace Bay, Dominion and other places.
ANGUS R. McDONALD, manager of the colliery, with Superintendent ALEX McEACHREN, led in the rescue work and its supervision. Manager McDONALD was himself overcome by gas on one of his trips down the pit, and was brought to the surface in a semi-conscious condition. He is now partially recovered. Superintendent ALEX McNEIL of No. 3 colliery, who hastened to take part in the rescue efforts, was also overcome, and at the time of the last report from the mine he was unconscious. Deputy Mine Inspector McINTOSH is on hand helping to get the situation under control.
Down in the mine-shaft some bodies are reported to have been discovered with heads and limbs blown off, or mutilated in other ways. A rescue party which reached No. 6 landing, where the explosion took place, found the bodies of 22 men. Another party, which reached No. 7, found seven more.
It is believed the explosion was caused by the first shot fired when the men went into the pit this morning. A heavy fall of coal is reported to have taken place at No. 7 landing, blocking the way to the landing. Rescue parties going to the landing have had to approach it by another route than that usually used.
Heroic work is being done by a corps of volunteers. Two young men who went down into the pit this morning on rescue work were suffocated, and now lie dead. They are JACK McKENZIE, of New Waterford, a son of DANIEL McKENZIE, and PHILIP NICHOLSON.
Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1917-07-26