Cleveland, OH Clinic Explosion and Fire, May 1929
Some were taken to the Cleveland clinic hospital, adjoining the clinic building. The others were taken to Mt. Sinai, Huron Road and Charity hospitals.
Emergency equipment was set up outside the building as the fumes lifted and permitted rescuers to work in safety. Police lines were thrown about the district to reroute traffic and hold in check a crowd of several thousand onlookers.
Inside the building firemen found many lying in the spot where the blasts found them. Rooms set aside for clinical examinations were occupied by patients and physicians. Some sat in chairs of the waiting room, overcome as the first cloud of gas swept up from the basement. Others in the front of the building were stretched along the stairs.
The rescuers found evidences of the suddenness with which disaster came to those inside the building on every hand. Hats and shoes were scattered about abandoned in the flight of those able to fight off the fumes long enough to make a frantic attempt at escape.
Surgical equipment lay ready for use in the examining rooms. In the X-ray developing room a roll of film was stretched to dry. A wheel chair with the blanket thrown aside blocked a balcony overlooking the waiting room. A stenographer's half finished letter was found in an office.
Everything was abandoned as the victims realized too late that the brown fumes curling through door casings and along the halls carried death.
Most of them were to make no attempt to save themselves. No bed patients were kept in the clinic and many of those there had appeared for medical examinations, were able to attempt escape. But so sudden was the catastrophe that none had time to reach the open air and safety.
Emergency provisions were made at the hospitals and as these became overflowed a residence near the clinic was made into a temporary first aid station. Cots were set in halls at Mt. Sinai hospital and as fast as the victims succumbed they were removed for the oncoming line of ambulances. The unknown dead were taken immediately to county morgue, which was taxed as never before. Anxious relatives who arrived at the clinic to learn that members of their families had been removed gathered at the morgue and the hospitals to learn their fate.
Identification was slow. As rapidly as the names of the victims were learned they were posted at the morgue and police established another bureau of information at central station.
The work of identification went or tonight. Police declared it might require several days to complete the roster of those who were killed.
Discoloration hampered identification of some, although none of the bodies were disfigured otherwise.
The blasts shot through the building with an intensity of heat which even the masonry could not resist. As the fumes leaped from the compression of the narrow quarters in the basement they scared the woodwork and charred stair rails.
Hardened plaster was blistered and peeled from the walls. A steel floor was blown in and the fumes filling a hollow compartment between a balcony roof and the roof of the building, ripped out the brick and mortar as if it had been pasteboard.
Steel network of the plastering was peeled from the walls and hung along the balconies. The casings of the skylight buckled and warped under the force of the explosion and the broken glass was rained on the floor of the waiting room three floors below.
The suction after the explosion shattered glass doors reinforced with steel. Compression in the hollow center of the building packed air into the halls and staircases and when this force was released by the blast the air rushed back into the center of the building smashing the doors with the force of battering rams.
Heavy fumes hung about the building and for two hours after the blast rescuers were unable to remain inside for long intervals.
The explosion came at a few seconds past 11:30 A. M. A clock on the third floor balcony stopped at that time.