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Women and Children Perish While Fishermen Are Absent From Home – Winter Supply Lost – Seventy-Three Buildings Ruined in One Centre – Boats, Equipment Borne Away


St. John’s, N.F., Nov. 22 (UP). – The complete story of Monday night’s devastation by earthquake and tidal wave along the southeastern coast of Burin peninsula, describing the deaths of women and children swept away by a wall of water which crushed their homes, was brought here by the United press to-day by motorboat from Burin.

Preceding many relief vessels converging on the cliff-guarded town, the motorboat visited Burin and the stricken villages along the coast southward. A death toll of 36 was listed as follows:

Burin, 9; Port Aux-Bras, 7; Lamaline (including Point-Aux-Gaul), 15; Lord’s Cove and Kelley’s Cove, 2, and Taylor’s Bay, 3.

The motorboat party found chaos, tragedy and distress everywhere. They penetrated along the rocky coast from Burin southward to the village of Lamaline on the southernmost tip of the finger of land which juts out in the Atlantic from the mainland of Newfoundland.

It will be days before actual relief work can get underway. All means of communication are paralyzed. Cables, telegraph and telephone lines have been broken by the earth tremor, the centre of which was only a few hundred miles from the peninsula. Homeless and without fuel, the villagers even are without means of communication by boat, the tidal wall of water having swept away hundreds of dories and skiffs.

Although the entire seaward coast felt the wave, the stretch from Burin southward was hardest hit. The French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon apparently escaped damage as did the western coast of the peninsula.

From eye-witnesses at Burin, a town of 2,500, the most graphic stories of the disaster were obtained. Their stories dated from 5.30 p.m. Monday when the entire peninsula was rocked by the earth tremor. Barely recovering from the earth shock which in itself did considerable damage, the villagers were seated at dinner when the tidal wave, created by the tremor, struck the coast with terrifying force.

The tremor had lasted about two minutes, shaking every building for miles along the sparsely populated southeastern coast. The rumble like that of distant thunder was broken by the crash of household crockery, glass, pictures shaken from walls, cracking buildings and the screech of twisting dwellings.

Pray in Churches

Women and children, most of them alone in the absence of the husbands and fathers on fishing trips, fled from their homes, rushed through the streets to congregate prayerfully in the churches. Clergymen pacified them somewhat and induced them to return to their homes. Children were lost in the panic and many were trapped in their homes as the water crushed the small frame dwellings and carried them back into the sea.

One heroic mother, alone with two children, ran to the street and when she saw the advancing wall of water rushed back to rescue her children. Her dwelling was filling rapidly with water, but she waded through the door, only to be swept out to sea in the wreckage of the building. Many bodies were found beneath the debris left by the receding waves.

Small boats and schooners, lifted from their anchorage, were dashed upon the shore, crashing against buildings. Piers and wharves were lifted clear from their foundations and hurled with tremendous force against the dwellings on the shore. The structures were demolished, the wreckage carried back into the ocean.

The terror of the dwellers was accentuated by screams that the island was sinking. Prayers and entreaties to God mingled with calls for loved ones. There were reports that some had become completely bereft of reason and were found several hours later wandering helplessly inland.

The distress was made greater by the loss of most of the winter supplies which were swept away by the tidal wave. Stocks of many of the Burin stores were wiped out.

Crafts torn from their moorings drifted along the shore for a full day after the disaster. Efforts to salvage them were defeated by the gale and most of them ultimately were wrecked against the rocks. The wreckage of schooners and small fishing boats was piled high with the debris of dwellings along the shore.

Whole Town Inundated

At the small town of Port-Aux-Bras seven lives fere lost. The town was completely inundated by the tidal wave. Many dwellers were rescued after they had been adrift on their dwellings for hours, their cries attracting the rescuers along the shore. Eleven dwellings, 14 fishing schooners, more than a hundred dories and skiffs and every small structure from the smallest landing stage to merchants’ stores were swept into the sea and dashed to bits on the shore. Every article of food was lost as well as coal and winter supplies. Residents were destitute for food, clothing and fuel.

At Lamaline and the adjacent settlement of Point Aux Gaul, near Lord’s Cove, fifteen persons perished. Four members of the Hipditch family were drowned in their home; two members of the Hilliers Walsh families were swept out to sea. All fishing property, stages, cod traps and provisions were lost. Three dwellings and 70 other buildings were wrecked. Eight persons were killed in the collapse of one building.

Two persons were drowned at Kelley’s Cove, three dwellings wrecked and all fishing boats and fishing gear lost.

St. Lawrence, Corbin, Burin, Mortier Bay, Rock Harbor, Stepaside and Lancelau were swept clean of shore buildings and fishing boats, although all residents either escaped to higher ground before the wave struck on were rescued before they were carried back to sea.

Bridges near Lord’s Cove were thrown 20 to 30 feet out of place, trees uprooted, fences leveled and roads obliterated. The carcasses of drowned cattle line the shore where they were deposited.

The telegraph station building at St. Lawrence was swept out to sea by the receding wave, but later found and anchored in the middle of the harbor. The surface of the harbor was strewn with wreckage and fishing gear, all of which was picked up from the shore.

Witnesses told of the heroic rescue of an entire family at Lancelau as a home was being carried out on the crest of the receding water. There was no loss of life there, although several were suffering from exposure.

Suffer from Shock

Many injuries were reported at Lamaline, and one man, caught in the collapse of a dwelling, died to-day. He was Thomas Lawlor. There were others suffering from shock and in the absence of outside aid distress was beyond the comprehension of those who could not witness the devastation of the wave.

There was no estimate of monetary loss possible. Concern centred only on aiding the injured and sheltering and feeding the victims of the disaster.

The first to reach the scene were appalled by the catastrophe, accustomed as Newfoundlanders are to storms and disasters at sea.

The cutter Daisy towed several dwellings to shore near Port-Aux-Bras, but found no bodies. One cutter reported that two persons had died from exposure and shock at Port-Aux-Bras, but there was no confirmation.

At Port Union in Trinity Bay, some 50 miles directly northwest of St. John’s, the water receded six feet, vessels at the piers settling firmly on the bottom for about ten minutes, when the water returned to normal.

Cable officials here relayed word from their repair ships reporting a tremendous upheaval of the ocean bed 350 miles south of St. John’s, intersecting cable routes. Shipping that was south and southeast of St. John’s Monday night and from 50 to 100 miles off the coast encountered a dangerous upheaval of the ocean surface which passed quickly without damage.

The government steamer, Meigle, carrying doctors, nurses and provisions, early to-day was nearing the coast of Burin peninsula.

A fund is being collected here for the people whose means of livelihood have been demolished.