Pocohontas, VA Mine Disaster, Apr 1884

The Mine Disaster.

The Mountain Cracked by the Force of the Explosion – The Number Lost.

The victims of the mine disaster at Pocahontas, Va., last week, leave 97 widows and orphans. There were five distinct explosions, and their force was so great that the mountain was cracked. There were no expert gas men employed in the mine, and no safety lamps used. The officers say the explosion was not caused by a lamp, but probably by a blast which opened up a large quantity of gas. Two-thirds of the men were white, and more than fifty had families. The actual number killed is 184, of whom fifty were negroes, forty Hungarians, and the remainder Germans and natives. Ten mules were also killed.

The night relief went into the mines at the usual hour on Wednesday night. A little after midnight the town was startled from its sleep by a noise that sounded like the rumbling of an earthquake, followed by a clap of thunder. Soon a messenger came from the mines, three-fourth of a mile away, with information to the superintendent that there had been a terrible explosion there. The superintendent and others hastened to the mines, and the scene presented to their view was indescribable. The entrance to the main shaft was entirely torn out and scattered pell mell for hundreds of feet. The little train track was torn and twisted, and shapeless timber and ties were mixed in confusion all around.

The cars were taken up bodily and torn apart, and their iron wheels were shivered. They were thrown across a ravine five hundred yards, and buried in the mountain beyond. The mountain itself was upheaved by the force of the explosion and in several places near the entrance of the mines enormous crevices were made in the earth. In many places on the mountain coal dust has settled an inch thick. Immense trees were uprooted four hundred yards from the mine. Three dwelling houses near the mines were demolished by the falling of cars and debris on them. Two colored women and a child were in one of the homes, and were literally torn to pieces. Rocks were thrown through the workshops, and every object that stood in the direct course of the forced air was demolished. Several workmen in the shops were injured. The shops, as well as the locomotive house, were leveled with the ground.

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