The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 432 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.


“Hearing the awful report of the explosion and seeing the great wall of flames approaching the steamer, those on deck sought shelter wherever it was possible, jumping into the cabin, the forecastle and even into the hold.  I was in the chart room, but the burning embers were borne by so swift a movement of the air that they were swept in through the door and port holes, suffocating and scorching me badly.  I was terribly burned by these embers about the face and hands, but managed to reach the deck.  Then, as soon as it was possible, I mustered the few survivors who seemed able to move, ordered them to slip the anchor, leaped for the bridge and ran the engine for full speed astern.  The second and the third engineer and a fireman were on watch below and so escaped injury.  They did their part in the attempt to escape, but the men on deck could not work the steering gear because it was jammed by the debris from the volcano.  We accordingly went ahead and astern until the gear was free, but in this running backward and forward it was two hours after the first shock before we were clear of the bay.

“One of the most terrifying conditions was that, the atmosphere being charged with ashes, it was totally dark.  The sun was completely obscured, and the air was only illuminated by the flames from the volcano and those of the burning town and shipping.  It seems small to say that the scene was terrifying in the extreme.  As we backed out we passed close to the Roraima, which was one mass of blaze.  The steam was rushing from the engine room, and the screams of those on board were terrible to hear.  The cries for help were all in vain, for I could do nothing but save my own ship.  When I last saw the Roraima she was settling down by the stern.  That was about 10 o’clock in the morning.

“When the Roddam was safely out of the harbor of St. Pierre, with its desolations and horrors, I made for St. Lucia.  Arriving there, and when the ship was safe, I mustered the survivors as well as I was able and searched for the dead and injured.  Some I found in the saloon where they had vainly sought for safety, but the cabins were full of burning embers that had blown in through the port holes.  Through these the fire swept as through funnels and burned the victims where they lay or stood, leaving a circular imprint of scorched and burned flesh.  I brought ten on deck who were thus burned; two of them were dead, the others survived, although in a dreadful state of torture from their burns.  Their screams of agony were heartrending.  Out of a total of twenty-three on board the Roddam, which includes the captain and the crew, ten are dead and several are in the hospital.  My first and second mates, my chief engineer and my supercargo, Campbell by name, were killed.  The ship was covered from stem to stern with tons of powdered lava, which retained its heat for hours after it had fallen.  In many cases

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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