New York Times

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 blew up at 6:40 tonight, killing twenty to twenty-five persons, and injuring more than 100. At a late hour tonight Chief of Police Morrison said that 100 employes of the starch company were unaccounted for.

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

The explosion was followed by a fire which burned the big plant to the ground. It is estimated that the loss will total $1,500,000. This includes the damage to buildings in the heart of the city which were damaged by the force of the shock. The Douglas Company cannot estimate its loss, but insurance men say that it will be more than a million dollars.

The city was placed under the reserve officers' training corps, commanded by Major Gilmore and Captain E. B. Shaw, and more than 100 men in uniform with loaded guns are at the plant, where the crowd has become unmanageable. The police have instructed the soldiers to use clubbed 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 débris in an effort to get at the imprisoned men, but it is believed there is no living person there. The explosion wrecked all the heavy machinery on 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 the wrecked plant. The fire was so intense that it was impossible for the firemen to cut their way in. Several overseas soldiers volunteered to go into the building but were driven back by the flames.

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

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

Every window in the central part of the city was blown out. Chimneys caved in on families at the supper table. Guests in the dining rooms of hotels were thrown from their seats. A Chicago traveling man in a hotel had his nose cut almost off by broken glassware. J. D. Boorman, another Chicago man, was blown through a window of his hotel and suffered cuts and 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 were shattered. Ticket sellers in picture theatres were injured by failing glass.

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 plant and 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 from the débris in various parts of the wreck. One man was taken out of the river. He had been thrown forty feet, but he was still alive. Another was picked up fifty feet from the plant. His arms were hanging on by a thread of flesh. He also begged to be shot. Until the records are available tomorrow it will be impossible to get the correct list of dead and injured.

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

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