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FULL DETAILS OF DISASTER AT FRANK.
List of Killed and Injured. Millions of Tons of Mountain Slid Down. Ten Square Miles Covered With Debris Five to One Hundred Feet Deep. Mine Intact.
Macleod, April 30.—J. Samons, a Winnipeg man, has just arrived from Frank. He says the noise was terrific in the neighborhood of the explosion caused by escaping gas and falling rocks. It is reported here that about 160 have been killed; two miles square of valley is filled in a hundred feet deep by the explosion; a hundred miners’ cottages buried; eighteen miners have been taken from the mine, and five of them dead. Several more are imprisoned, and they are probably dead. Two ranchers, named Graham, with their families, were buried under the debris. A special train is just leaving here, W.M. Pearce, inspector of mines, with a dozen Mounted Police, has just arrived here from Calgary on their way to the disaster, also with doctors, and nurses.
It is understood that Mr. Pearce is instructed by the Dominion government to represent them and take remedial measures.
A train is just leaving for Frank, 55 miles west of this point. An anxious crowd is at the station here to see the special depart. Many of them have relative or friends in Frank.
Inspectors Primrose and Douglas are in charge of the police, who are being reinforced by 25 constables and non-commissioned officers from Macleod.
An operator performed a conspicuous act of bravery yesterday by climbing over the mass of upheaved rocks to flag the Crow’s Nest express from the east. It is said he has since gone crazy as a result of the awful tragedy of which he was an eye witness.
Your correspondent is leaving on a special train for the scene of the disaster.
Opinions vary as to whether the phenomena is volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, but Mr. Pearce, who knows the geology of the locality, and is an authority, says his theory is that an immense quantity of gas was released by coal mining operations and this caused the trouble.
Macleod Station, April 29.—(10:30 p.m.)—Seventeen miners were got out alive. The total casualties will not go over fifty. The report of the returning physicians is that seventeen of the buried miners have made their way through an air shaft to safety.
Special from Frank.
Frank, April 29.—(Midnight)—This place was visited this morning by the worst disaster that has ever befallen any community in Western Canada, possibly in the entire Dominion. What was either land or rock of such gigantic magnitude as to be utterly inconceivable to the mind of any whose eye has not beheld it on a slide induced by a seismic upheaval, killed fifty-six people, and destroyed the plant of the Canadian-American Coal and Coke company, did a vast amount of damage to the mine, and completely devastated about ten square miles of the finest and most picturesque section of the Crow’s Nest Pass.
From our Special Correspondent.
Frank, Alberta, April 30.—(2:30 p.m.)—Your correspondent arrived at the scene of the great disaster at 4 o’clock this morning. After traveling from Calgary as far as possible on the special train with William Pearce, Inspector Douglas and ten members of the North West Mounted Police, and though it was almost pitch dark when the train stopped, the party at once started over the mass of rocks thrown up by the explosion or whatever it was. For nearly two miles we stumbles in semi-darkness over limestone rocks, varying ins size from a brick to that of a house. To the left was a gigantic gap in Turtle mountain, from which millions of tons of debris had fallen or been thrown down. At 6 o’clock after two hours hard work Frank was reached.
One end of town, which numbered about 500 souls, was under nearly 100 feet of rocks, which filled in the river, and covered the railway for nearly two miles.
It will take months to clear the line, and the C.P.R. will probably rebuild by another route, or build a new line over the debris.
Several eye witnesses of the phenomenal occurrence were seen by your correspondent. Nearly all agree that a gas explosion took place before the side of the mountain fell away, which filled up the valley for nearly two miles long by a mile and a half wide. Citizens also declare that frequent explosions took place yesterday morning after the great slide. They also saw great rocks thrown high in the air.
Three mining engineers, however, declare emphatically that no eruption was possible, and that the awful catastrophe was the result of a great mountain slide. Some say it was caused by a seam of coal having been mined out.
All mines at Frank are owned by the Canadian-American Coal and Coke company, of which, H. L. Frank, of Butte, Montana, is the biggest shareholder, and S. W. Gebo, general manager. The company employed three hundred men last winter, but weeded out about a hundred foreigners.
Eighty-three persons are known to have been killed, and the number is growing.
A miraculous escape was that of Sam Ennis and family, whose house was rolled over three times, but the inmates escaped with bruises only.
The camps of Poupoire & McVeigh were buried underneath the mountain, and all occupants were killed.
Three girls of the family of Alex. Leitch, formerly of Oak Lake, Manitoba, were rescued alive, while their mother and father and four brothers were instantly killed.
Seventeen men were rescued from the mine.
Twelve bodies have been recovered so far and the rest are buried under hundreds of feet of rock.
The leg and hip of a man was found lying fifty yards from the Imperial Hotel.
Killed and Injured
The dead are:
The fatally injured are:
W. Pearce, chief inspector of surveys, who is here looking after the situation for the Department of the Interior, on being interviewed by your correspondent said:
“Disaster caused by rock slide about four thousand feet long, extending from the extreme height of Turtle mountain. The west end of the slide is about three hundred feet above the mouth of the mine tunnel. The slide extended out fan shaped and crossed the valley and went up on the opposite hill about four hundred feet above the level of the valley. One and one quarter miles from the base of Turtle mountain the river is totally obliterated for over a mile, and in some places covered by rocks one hundred and fifty feet deep. The river has ceased to rise, and is now running through rock as fast as it comes down. While the streams remain low there is no danger, but what would happen in a flood is a hard thing to tell. There is no probability of any further slides.”
It is an awful and grand sight looking at the scene of the disaster and the wreck. It must be seen to be realized.
Another Account of the Disaster.
The time of the disaster was 4:15 Wednesday morning when the residents of the town were awakened by a deafening tumult and a shaking of buildings which seemed as if it would rattle them into complete demolition. Of all the town inhabitants numbering nearly 1,000, not one professes to have reached the outside of their domain in time to see any part of what took place, but when day dawned it was seen that the whole side of Turtle mountain had fallen away; and the country extending from the eastern edge of the town for two miles down the pass, and entirely across the pass, a distance of two miles or more from the mountain, lay buried beneath, rock and debris of various kinds for a depth varying from twenty-five to one hundred feet.
In its sweep the great slide, if slide it was or upheaval, if that be the more proper characterization, demolished and carried away the entire operating plant of the Coal company, the tipple boiler and engine house, electric light plant, railway scales, shops and a row of coke ovens, destroying seven houses owned by the company, burying six of them with most of their occupants and likewise burying ten other habitations situated in the valley of the town, together with every soul within them.
Scene of the Catastrophe.
The scene of the catastrophe was originally one of great picturesqueness, being the valley of the Old Man’s river, which forms the eastern slope of the Crow’s Nest Pass. Turtle mountain, a sheer wall of limestone, rising to a height of 3,500 feet above the level of the town forms the southern side of the pass. A valley, somewhere over a mile wide, lies between Turtle mountain and the foothills of a rocky range of mountains to the north. The Old Man’s river flowing through the valley follows closely to the side of Turtle mountain, right up against the foot of which the major portion of the town is built, the mountain wall being so straight up that on the longest day in summer the sun sets in the town at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Where Trouble Started.
The coal mine of the Canadian-American Coal and Coke company, or more properly the seam being worked, extends along the side of Turtle mountain in a parallel direction. It is a vertical vein worked from a tunnel up. It was immediately over the workings that the mountain fell away burying some houses to a depth of more than one hundred feet. If it was a slide it came down the mountain, crossed the valley, and went up the foothills on the opposite side to a height far above any building in the town, converting cosy homes and property of great value into a waste, leaving the appearance of their having been buried by a volcanic eruption, and valueless for any purpose for all time.
Cause of the Movement.
As there is no geological expert on the ground it is impossible to determine the true character of the force exerted. Many hold to the belief that it was the result of an earthquake which caused the mountain to fall. Others believe it to have been a limestone upheaval, while others think it was simply a slide caused possibly by the lime rock stacking under the influence of the thawing weather of spring.
Death Roll Smaller Than Anticipated.
It was at first believed that the death roll was swelled by the total number of men at work in the mine, seventeen, and that the men had been buried by the walls squeezing under the terrific strain, but happily both suppositions proved untrue.
Later on in the day when the men rescued themselves the report of the condition of the inside of the mine was told, and it proved to be intact. Had the mine been ruined it would have meant a loss to the company of about three million dollars, but as it is the mine will be reopened, and it is thought the actual loss to the company will not exceed $250,000 if it amounts to so much.
How Miners Got Out.
The imprisoned miners escaped by digging their way to the surface from the upper workings. Some were injured but not seriously.
The families of the two Grahams, whose homes were separated by a mile, and the employees of Poupore & McVeigh, whose cabins were a mile further east, were buried fully a hundred feet deep, and none of the bodies can ever be recovered. In fact it is doubtful if many of the bodies of the dead are ever found.
A citizen’s meeting was held early in the morning and steps were taken to search the ruins for bodies, but only seven bodies had been found up to last evening. Most of the bodies recovered were mangled so badly that identification was impossible.
C. P. R. a Heavy Loser.
The Canadian Pacific railway is a heavy loser by the disaster. Two miles of line were buried from fifty to one hundred feet deep and a new and a new line will have to be located or built. The entire loss resulting from the disaster, it is estimated, will amount to one million dollars, if not considerably more.