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Headline reading 54 DIE; 69 LOST

54 DIE; 69 LOST

17 Pages of Flood Pictures, Reports

Send Special Police as Ghouls Reported

By Ralph Hyman

Death and destruction rode the crest of Ontario flood waters in the nightmare hours of Saturday morning, leaving 54 known dead, 69 missing and presumed drowned, and a chaotic condition never before experienced in Southern Ontario.

From Bradford and Becton in the north to the mouth of the Humber River in the south, the once smiling valley with its neat towns and villages today is a scene of wreckage. Homes became death traps as the wild running waters, fed by the natural reservoirs in the hills swallowed up streets and houses and automobiles.

Ghouls searching for bodies to rob of jewelry and money were reported last night in the flood-ravaged areas of Thistletown, Woodbridge and North York.

Squads of police, RCAF and Navy guards, and a squad of 20 RCMP officers, were rushed into the area. Special police were sworn in.

Premier Frost announced last night that his government will call the affected municipalities into conference with departmental officials shortly to consider rehabilitation. The Premier is expected to visit the flood areas today.

Striking with a swiftness that seemed to paralyze many residents, the fast-moving water swept everything before it, smashing bridges and culverts, washing out roads, destroying communications and, most tragic of all, snuffing out the lives of those who failed to move in time.

In the Metropolitan area, Etobicoke Township bore the brunt of the disaster. On one street alone, 31 residents are believed to have lost their lives when the Humber River engulfed 19 homes.

At Islington firehall, which has been turned into a mortuary, there were 24 bodies. Dr. Smirle Lawson, chief coroner for Ontario, said last night that 19 of the 24 have been identified. Dr. Lawson estimates that another 30 to 35 persons have drowned in the area.

Fred G. Gardiner, chairman of Metro council, said damage estimates run as high as $100,000,000. It will be days before an accurate estimate of property loss is available.

In the Holland Marsh area alone, the crop loss has been fixed at more than $2,000,000. The loss of homes and farm machinery is expected to be many times this figure. Investigators said last night that 465 families comprising about 1,100 persons, have lost all their possessions in the Holland Marsh district.

A pileup of traffic is expected to strain police forces to the limit this morning when thousands of suburban dwellers attempt to enter Toronto over a lakeshore Bailey bridge from the Queen Elizabeth Way and No. 2 highway, and over the other accesses left to them at Bloor and Dundas bridges. No. 11 Highway north of Thornhill now is open for traffic.

Throughout the weekend, agencies of relief co-ordinated their efforts. The Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Salvation Army, the churches and service clubs all swing into high gear to aid the homeless.

Disaster funds were opened and many business houses were among the first to contribute substantial amounts. The Ontario Association of Mayors and Reeves met in emergency session to consider plans for rehabilitation. Metro Chairman Gardiner conferred with his officials on the general problem of restoring services and helping the refugees. Maj.-Gen. F.F. Worthington, director of civil defense, toured the flood areas Sunday afternoon, accompanied by provincial government officials.

Five Etobicoke volunteer firemen died in the line of duty. They drowned while attempting to rescue three men marooned in the swollen Humber River.

Two doctors worked for hours on end at Woodbridge, inoculating the residents against typhoid. In nine hours close to 1,000 persons had been given protective shots. Warnings concerning polluted water were circulated in the flood districts. Health authorities warned that all water should be boiled or chlorinated and similar steps taken with food submerged in water or even dampened by the flood.

Damage to roads and bridges has led to the closing of numerous Etobicoke Township schools and about 3,000 children will have a holiday until further notice.

Hundreds of lives were saved through the daring and devotion to duty of men whose names won’t make the headlines because they are unknown. Police and firemen and citizens combined in a tremendous rescue operation that saw hundreds of men and women and children snatched from the brink of death.

The impact of the rushing floods knocked out 40 bridges in the Metropolitan area and 10 others are unusable because flood waters washed away the approaches. Toronto and Lakeshore police officials fear a major traffic tieup today. A Bailey bridge has been thrown across the mouth of the Humber but it will be restricted to essential traffic.

There were stories of miraculous escapes, of men being swept away and seemingly lost, only to turn up hours later with accounts of being saved by a clump of bushes to which they were able to cling. Firemen put extension ladders to uses not sanctioned by the underwriters, imperilling their lives to save lives.

For the first time since the Metropolitan area was formed, there were Metropolitan police and fire forces at work. In the darkness of the rain-swept night, working in areas strange to them, police and firemen from outside municipalities defied the turbulent waters to snatch despairing men and women from rooftops, the tops of cars and from bushes.

When the drab light showed the scene in all its desolation, rescue work quickened. In the rich Holland Marsh district north of Toronto, the river had broken its bounds to turn the entire area into another lake. Here the property damage will run into millions. Known as the vegetable basket of Toronto, the famous black topsoil of the marsh area is silt-covered.

There were heart-breaking scenes as relatives sought word of loved ones in the stricken areas. Municipal buildings became temporary morgues and schools and churches were opened as shelters for the dazed, exhausted survivors. It was first feared that loss of life in the Bradford area would be heavy, but later reports showed that all of the 1,000 residents of the Holland Marsh district had been saved.

To the east, the Don River went on a rampage and in Scarboro, homes bordering Highland Creek were wrecked Friday night and Saturday morning.

Emergency feeding centres sprang up in the flood areas. Homes and hearts were opened by more fortunate residents. Families that had been separated in the horror of the night, found themselves reunited in the homes of good samaritans. And there were children who have not yet been told they will never see their parents again.

Toronto is a community isolated from its suburbs on the west except by one roundabout route that is being restricted to essential traffic. There will be extra rail service today and for the duration of the emergency to bring commuters to and from their city jobs.

The storm’s stunning impact found full expression on a single street in Etobicoke, Raymore Drive. Here the Humber River swallowed up the houses and there are believed to be 31 victims.

Pleasant, shallow and slow-moving streams and rivers became raging destroyers of lives and property. One refugee said: “We’ll never be able to trust the Humber again, not after this.”