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SERIOUS COLLIERY DISASTER.I

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SERIOUS COLLIERY DISASTER. Great excitement prevailed on Wednesday after- noon throughout the northern colliery districts in consequence of the publication of reports of a terrible colliery disaster at the Earl of Durham's pits, near Houghton-le-Spring. The first hurriedly-telegraphed statements put the probable loss of life at the appal- ling figure of 350. Happily, however, the disaster, although it proved on investigation to be sufficiently grave, was not of such terrible dimensions, and it was finally estimated by experts that not more than twenty or twenty-five persons have perished. The Earl of Durham has two pits near Pensher, known as the Dolly and the Peggy, both situated near the Usworth Col- liery, where a disastrous explosion took place some months ago. In these pits there are three seams, all connected with one another, and the actual scene of the disaster was in the New Maudlin seam in the Peggy pit, between eleven and twelve o'clock on Wed- nesday morning, during the changing of the shifts, numbering about 120 men and boys. All the men were at work unsuspicious of danger, for the ventila- tion was exceptionally good, and the general atmos- pheric conditions were unusually favourable to mining operations. Suddenly a putter lad came rushing along the workings screaming out to the newly arrived shift men to run for their lives, as the new Mandlin seam was on fire. The men at once made their way to the shaft, aDd were quickly drawn to bank, and the bulk of [the men in the Hutton seam also made good their escape. Several men coming from another direction narrowly escaped with their lives, and it was not until they reached the bank that the exact character of the calamity became known. The seam was not on fire, as was at first reported, but some old workings had been broken into, causing a rush of gas, followed by a tremendous inpour of water, which swept through the workings, according to the statement of one of the survivors, like a roar- ing storm-swollen river. How everybody along the course of the torrent managed to escape with their lives is almost miraculous. Strong men were swept along for a considerable distance breast-deep in the water, and a number of boys were saved only by the gallantry of the men, who dragged them along or held them up out of the water at the risk of their own lives. As the first batch of refugees made their appearance at bank the terrible news quickly spread, and the pit's mouth was in an in- credibly short time surrounded by a crowd of weep- ing, wailing women and children, who watched with painful interest and anxiety the arrival of each batch of rescued men. One man named Reynoldson, a carter and back overman, was brought to bank in a pitiable condition, suffering from after-damp. It was evident that he could not live long and, indeed, de- spite the tender care of the medical men who had hastened to the spot, he died within a few minutes of his arrival at bank. Meanwhile, Mr. Patterson, of the Miners'Association, Mr. Bell, Government inspector, and a number of mining engineers held a consultation, and with as little delay as possible these gentlemen, together with Mr. John Smailes, Mr. Ralph Black- burn, Mr. Hope, Mr. Tate (the manager of the pit), and Mr. Stokoe Houghton, descended upon an ex- ploring expedition. They found that the water bad first broken away in the New Maudlin seam, at a time when twenty-five men and lads were working there. Measures were at once taken to stop the in- flow of water and, it is hoped, the complete flooding of the colliery. The following is a list as far as could be gained on Wednesday of the entombed: John Howse, back overman, married, with one child; J. Daglish, hewer, wife and five children; Thomas Dag- lish, widower Joseph Robinson and one of his sons, hewers; James Grey, hewer, married, three children John Jackson, hewer; Joseph Carr, hewer, married, one child; John Williamson, single; J. Lewis, married; two brothers named McLean, single; J. Allison, married, six children; J. Laidler, J. Hen- derson (putter), G. Kirtley (driver), and II. Davidson. At five o'clock in the eveninglittle hope was entertained of rescuing any of these alive. A later account says It is now hoped that the loss of life at the Margaret Pit will not exceed twelve. Mr. Tate son of the resi- dent inspector, on coming to bank at five o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, stated that the ventilation was good, and the current of air in no way interfered with. Of the twenty, two men and boys then entombed, thirteen bad been spoken to. They were then im- prisoned in the second and fifth headings of the new Maudlin seam. They stated that they could hold out some time longer. Tea and biscuits were sent down, and in about half an hour later the two brothers named Daglish, and a putter boy named Middlemas, were sent to bank. They were somewhat exhausted, but quite able to walk home. From the statements they made, it was hoped that the remaining me;, may still be alive.

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