Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/205

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THE GREAT BENGAL CYCLONE OF 1876.

near the mouth of the Godavary, destroying nearly the entire town with its 30,000 inhabitants, and driving far inland the ships which lay at anchor in the bay. In 1839 the same locality was visited by another cyclone, which was nearly as destructive as the preceding. The coast of Madras and of Coromandel has again and again been the theatre of cyclones, though here the wave is not so destructive in its effects as elsewhere, owing to the situation and the formation of the coast. In Madras the cyclone usually appears to expend its fury on the many ships at anchor in the roads, and on the buildings on the land, as was the case in the years 1773, 1783, and 1872. As on October 15, 1783, so on the 1st and 2d of May, 1872, an enormous amount of shipping was lost. In the latter case the greater part of the vessels might have put out to sea, if the officer of the port had been at his station and given warning in time. The destruction of life and property caused by the wind and rain, as also by the swell of the sea, was very considerable. Another cyclone which on October 15 and 16, 1874, swept the inland districts of Midnapore and Burderan, claimed but few victims comparatively: in Midnapore only about 3,000 persons lost their lives, while in Burderan there were but a few fatal casualties. Of all the coasts of India the mouths of the Ganges and the Hooghly appear to have suffered oftenest and most severely from this catastrophe, for there wind and water are, as it were, "forced into one sack."

Thus the country situated about the mouth of the former river was, on October 31, 1831, overflowed by a storm-wave to a distance of 150 miles from the coast, and 300 native villages with their 10,000 inhabitants were destroyed; and it was visited a second and a third time by cyclones on October 7,1832, and September 21, 1839. At the mouth of the Hooghly on the 21st of October, 1833, some 10,000 lives were lost in a storm-wave, and on May 21st of the same year, near Coringa, 600 villages, with 50,000 souls, were swept away. In the last-named case the wave rose nine feet higher than the highest point ever before observed, and the barometer suddenly fell all of two inches. During the cyclone of October 5, 1864, at Calcutta, 1,500 square miles of country was overflowed, though the banks of the Hooghly and its tributaries, and the shores of the islands in the mouth of the stream, were protected by dikes eight to ten feet high. But even though these dikes had been sufficiently strong to resist the pressure of the water, still they were far from being sufficiently high. On this occasion the storm-wave rose sixteen and a half feet over the water-mark of the spring-tide, and twenty-seven feet above the mean level of the sea; still, it attained this height only because it entered the river at about high water. The wave was noticed as far as Mehurpore, on the Matabangha, It caused the loss of 50,000 human lives, but the destruction of life would have been far greater had the cyclone occurred at night, and had the people, as at Bacarganch been