Newfoundland’s Tsunami

Kingwell By Kingwell, 16th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1-9_tck2/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

The true story of a Tsunami that hit Southern Newfoundland in 1929

An Earthquake and Panic

Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning “harbour wave” and it can be said with certainty, that residents of the Burin Peninsula, on Newfoundland’s southern coast had never heard the word when on Monday, November 18, 1929 an underwater earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale stuck along two fault lines about 153 miles south of the island. It was about 5.00 in the afternoon when the earth began to tremble violently, lasting for about five minutes. Panic immediately broke out, and the people of St. John’s, 250 miles away thought the rumblings were caused by an accident in the Bell Island mines in Conception Bay. On the peninsula itself, women and children, most of them alone in the absence of husbands and fathers on fishing trips, fled from their homes and congregated in the churches. Pacified somewhat by the clergy most eventually returned to their homes.

Disaster Strikes

At around 7:30 PM, suddenly, and without warning, there was a roar from the sea, and a fifteen foot wall of water descended upon their frail houses. It poured in through doors and windows and in its undertow, swept away the homes as if they were matchboxes, sometimes with women and children inside. One heroic mother ran into the street and seeing the advancing waters ran back to rescue her two children. She waded bravely through the door, only to be swept out to sea in the wreckage of the building. Boats, both small and large, were torn from their anchorage and dashed upon the shore crashing against buildings. In the small community of Port-Aux-Bras, seven lives were lost, while many others were rescued after having been adrift for hours. Terrorized, many residents of the peninsula thought the island was sinking. Bereft of all reason, some were found several hours later wandering helplessly inland. All communication was cut off with the outside world as all cables, telegraph and telephone lines had been broken by the earthquake and at the time, there was no road connecting the Burin Peninsula with the rest of the island.

The Aftermath

It was days later before help arrived and the first to reach the scene were appalled by the catastrophe. It was several more days before a government ship arrived, carrying doctors, nurses and provisions. In all 36 people died and many more were injured. Left with almost no food and little shelter chaos, tragedy and distress were everywhere. Although this happened ten years before I was born and my parents lived many miles away, I remember my mother speaking of the tremor that shook the house. Today, Eighty-five years later people still speak of the “tidal wave” as it has always been called, an event far more common in the Pacific than the Atlantic Ocean.

Tags

Atlantic Ocean, Death, Disaster, Newfoundland, Panic, Tidal Wave, Tsunami, Underwater Earthquake

Meet the author

author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar Steve Kinsman
16th Feb 2014 (#)

A most fascinating account, Kingwell, of an event I knew nothing of. (Not surprising since people in this country are very poorly informed about what's happening in the rest of the world.)

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author avatar Kingwell
16th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank You Steve

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author avatar Mariah
17th Feb 2014 (#)

Horrific experience for the people
affected..thank you for sharing this Kingwell

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author avatar Kingwell
17th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Mariah

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Thnaks for sharing this interesting account from Newfoundland!

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author avatar Kingwell
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Fern, So many people have heard nothing about this.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks Kingwell for another fascinating account,
of an event hardly known to others. Now we have better warning systems. Every time there is an earthquake it is followed by tsunami alerts, but mostly soon withdrawn - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Hi Siva, You are right and even with the warnings today, there is often loss of life. Blessings.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Just amazing horrific nature and history.... thanks for sharing it so it is never forgotten...

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author avatar Kingwell
27th Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks Delicia, There are so many stories to share and it's what makes history come alive.

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