An unusual disaster was remembered on its 98th anniversary last Sunday. In Boston, on January 15, 1919, 21 people were killed by an explosion of molasses from a storage tank. It is remembered there the same way the Titanic anniversary is here.
Victims fell into and drowned in the 2.3m gallons, which flowed at 35mph. The flood was 25ft at its highest in the North End of the city. Rivets shot out of the tank like bullets. 150 people were injured. Horses were smothered and buildings destroyed.
A survivor said it was like being choked with goo. The dead included Bridget Clougherty, age 65, Peter Breen age 44, William Duffy, age 58, John Callahan, age 43, and Peter Shaughnessy, age 18. The two youngest were aged 10.
The recovery took days. The clean-up took longer (80,000 hours) and the harbour water went brown. The smell remained for months and some say they can still smell it on hot summer days.
One theory to its cause was a build-up of carbon dioxide. Another, in a study in the September, 2014 issue of Civil and Structural Magazine, found the steel was too thin and of a type used in the Titanic. Steel manufacturers did not know a low amount of manganese could make the steel brittle.
The tank was not reinforced, due to pressure to have it completed in 1916, as molasses was needed for munitions in WWI in Europe. The disaster was in a populated area by the harbour, where ships from Cuba delivered the syrup. 18th century American patriot, Paul Revere’s house is in the area.
Author Stephen Puleo, of Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (2004, Beacon Press), wrote how the tank groaned and shuddered when filled.
Safety tests, like filling with water to check for leaks, were neglected and the tank was painted brown to disguise leaks. The disaster led to better building standards and zoning laws in Boston and most of the US, and to a first, major class suit.
Families of those killed, the City of Boston, and the Boston Elevated Railway Company, received a settlement, in 1925, from United States Industrial Alcohol company. The site is today a public park. It sometimes takes a tragedy to implement safety measures.
Academics for Palestine, a group of academics working in Ireland in support of Palestinian universities and academics, notes, with the greatest concern, reported attempts by the Israeli embassy and its supporters (Irish Examiner, January 14) to prevent University College Cork hosting the conference ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’.
The conference is being jointly organised by Palestinian and Israeli academics and offers a vital examination of how Israel operates, particularly in relation to international law. The conference was scheduled to be held in the UK in 2015, but was thwarted, following a high-profile campaign by the pro-Israel lobby, which branded the event as ‘legitimising anti-Semitism’. It was pulled by Southampton University, citing security reasons.
Behind the effort to jeopardise the conference is the Israeli government and its multi-million battle against what it calls ‘delegitimisation’ (a new ministry was set up as part of the effort).
Delegitimisation is considered any effort to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people, to criticise Israel’s policies and actions, and to call for accountability for Israel’s breaches of international law.
A recent Al Jazeera investigation has exposed interference by the Israeli embassy in internal British politics and universities — including planning to ‘take down’ a senior member of the government, ousting the leader of the National Union of Students, and demonising advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
It comes as no surprise that similar attempts are being made in Ireland to shut down spaces for debate and attack the work of advocacy groups, such as the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Palestine, which had their bank accounts closed in the past year, without adequate explanation.
A cornerstone of our democracy is freedom of speech. In the interests of academic freedom, open debate, and justice, it is crucial that this conference goes ahead as planned, without interference.
Nick Folley (Irish Examiner, January 16) needs to read my letter again. Nowhere did I ask for Israel’s praises to be sung. What I did ask for, by way of balancing the proposed anti-Israel conference in UCC, was to have a closer look at the people who will benefit, should Israel be obliterated from the Middle East map, as some would like.
In effect, what will happen is the that only beacon of light in that part of the world, for Muslim women in particular, will be extinguished for an eternity and their enslavement by Sharia Law will be copper-fastened.
But given the tone of his letter, maybe Nick Folley might not consider that to be a bad thing.
The question of an imbalance between tax income and public expenditure is serious. If such an imbalance were found to exist, then there would be only two options: increase taxes or reduce public expenditure.
It is, presumably, in this context that the Government has set up the Public Service Pension Committee. Why the narrow focus? My fear is that the committee’s terms of reference will confine them to the usual suspects: nurses, teachers, gardaí, junior civil servants, etc. And why just pensions, which is even more limiting?
Surely, we must look at not just the pensions, but the salaries, allowances, etc, of all those, without exception, who are paid out of the public purse. This must include all gardaí, up to and including the commissioner, principal officers, and civil service secretaries general, judges, and members of the oireachtas!
Will any member of the oireachtas raise this issue in the Dail or Seanad? Right. So it is up to us, the ones paying for all this, whether we be public or private sector workers. We all pay taxes.
This is a great opportunity for the media to render a great public service.
A letter from (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) PETA’s Jennifer White (‘We must save the orcas of SeaWorld’, Irish Examiner, January 12), takes on an extraordinarily complicated subject — the concept of releasing zoo-born killer whales into the wild — and ignores the real issues that threaten orcas.
Like Ms. White, I am an animal welfare advocate, and a veterinarian. I dedicated my post-doctoral training to marine mammal health and disease, working with both zoo and wild animals.
I work alongside an extraordinary community of marine mammal health professionals: animal care specialists, aquatic animal veterinarians, and animal trainers, who enrich the lives of marine mammals through applied animal behaviour.
I also work with biologists, who study both wild killer whales and those living in zoological settings, where they conduct science not possible in the open ocean, yet critical to understanding the lives of, and threats to, wild whales and dolphins. All of us work together to provide for complete wellness of our animals, and to preserve and protect free-ranging, and in many cases endangered, marine mammals, including killer whales.
Today, the UK’s resident killer whales number less than 10 individuals. Now, more than ever, we all need to be aware of the health of our oceans, and their residents. We need to recruit champions for the ocean. And we see those champions in the children and guests who visit our parks and our animals. It’s why we pour our hearts and souls into caring for our orcas, and all the other animals at SeaWorld, every single day.
If Justice Deirdre Murphy wishes to promote the rule of law, then she has gone about this in a contradictory manner in the Dale Creighton case.
It was an appalling insult to justice, not to mention to the bereaved Creighton family, to describe the killers of Dale as not evil (he was beaten to death in a ‘punishment’ beating, having been wrongfully accused of stealing a mobile phone.) The leniency she then extended to them belittles true justice.
These killers deserve tougher sentences. One of them is a mother who should have her child permanently taken from her.