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Fire Follows, Causing $1,500,000 Damage to the Douglas Starch Works
Company of Soldiers Hold Back Relatives of Workers and Assist Rescuers
Windows Were Broken and Persons Cut by Flying Glass More Than a Mile Away
Special to The New York Times
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa, May 22---The Douglas Starch Works in this city blewup at 6:40 tonight, killing twenty to twenty-five persons, and injuringmore than 100. At a late hour tonight Chief of Police Morrison saidthat 100 employes of the starch company were unaccounted for.

Of the 250 men and boys who went to work on the night shift at 6o'clock comparatively few escaped injury of some kind. There aretwenty-five or thirty persons in hospitals injured, many of whom willdie, according to the physicians.

The explosion was followed by a fire which burned the big plant tothe ground. It is estimated that the loss will total $1,500,000. Thisincludes the damage to buildings in the heart of the city which weredamaged by the force of the shock. The Douglas Company cannot estimateits loss, but insurance men say that it will be more than a milliondollars.

The city was placed under the reserve officers' training corps,commanded by Major Gilmore and Captain E. B. Shaw, and more than 100men in uniform with loaded guns are at the plant, where the crowd hasbecome unmanageable. The police have instructed the soldiers to useclubbed guns if the crowd attempts to break into the ruins.

Scores of women are at the gates of the plant, crying for their husbands. Firemen are working in the débrisin an effort to get at the imprisoned men, but it is believed there isno living person there. The explosion wrecked all the heavy machineryon the top floors, which crashed through to the lower floors.

Fire Drives Back Rescuers

At 8 o'clock tonight cries were heard from the drying room of thewrecked plant. The fire was so intense that it was impossible for thefiremen to cut their way in. Several overseas soldiers volunteered togo into the building but were driven back by the flames.

General Manager Landers, who was at the plant five minutes after theexplosion, would advance no theory as to its cause. Others said it wasa dust explosion. An engineer, who was blown out of the building, saidhe believed that his boiler had exploded. It was said that the vacuumwas not turned on in the starch dryers, which may have caused the dustto accumulate.

Scores of people on the streets and about the works were injured byflying wreckage and broken glass. Windows in the business district wereblown in and persons in offices were cut by flying glass.

Every window in the central part of the city was blown out. Chimneyscaved in on families at the supper table. Guests in the dining rooms ofhotels were thrown from their seats. A Chicago traveling man in a hotelhad his nose cut almost off by broken glassware. J. D. Boorman, anotherChicago man, was blown through a window of his hotel and suffered cutsand bruises.

Frank Sodoma, an employe, was taken out of the plant alive. His legs were blown off. He begged the crowd to kill him.

Y. M. C. A. and City Hall Wrecked

The front of the City Hall and the Y. M. C. A. Building wereshattered. Ticket sellers in picture theatres were injured by failingglass.

All water mains were cut by the force of the explosion and it was impossible to fight the flames.

The Red Cross established first aid stations near the wrecked plantand did all that was possible for the injured as they were brought out.

Two unrecognizable bodies were taken from the plant at 9 o'clock.They were badly charred. Legs of bodies could be seen protruding fromthe débrisin various parts of the wreck. One man was taken out of the river. Hehad been thrown forty feet, but he was still alive. Another was pickedup fifty feet from the plant. His arms were hanging on by a thread offlesh. He also begged to be shot. Until the records are availabletomorrow it will be impossible to get the correct list of dead andinjured.

Escaping steam, the police say, blinded many of the employes and prevented them from escaping.

Coroner David King will summon a jury in the morning and a thorough investigation will be made of the cause of the accident.

Related Biographies

Walter Donald Douglas


Mark Baber, USA


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) 25 DEAD, 100 HURT IN BIG EXPLOSION AT CEDAR RAPIDS (New York Times, Friday 23rd May 1919, ref: #4483, published 11 March 2005, generated 26th June 2022 11:13:24 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/25-dead-100-hurt-big-explosion-at-cedar-rapids.html