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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/475

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SANITARY WORK IN GREAT DISASTERS.

SANITARY WORK IN GREAT DISASTERS.
By G. G. GROFF, M. D., LL. D.,

PRESIDENT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD OF HEALTH.

THE suggestions offered in this paper are derived from the experience of the past summer at Johnstown, Pa., and in the other flooded regions of the State, where a large share of the organization of the sanitary measures fell to the writer. Although one ninth of the inhabitants of the devastated district perished and were buried in the débris, along with thousands of domestic animals; and although typhoid fever, measles, and diphtheria existed in the district before the calamity, they never spread to any great extent, and certainly never became epidemic.

The region was a peculiarly difficult one in which to conduct sanitary relief. Along a narrow mountain valley for twenty miles were scattered some twenty-eight towns and villages, forming Johnstown. Of these, twenty were devastated by the flood, which left almost every village isolated from the others, all bridges and roads being destroyed, as also all horses and vehicles of the inhabitants, thus rendering communication extremely difficult or impossible. The members of the State Board of Health were unacquainted with the geography of the region, and with the local physicians, as well as with those who volunteered their services. There were no disinfectants on hand, and the whole appropriation of the Board for sanitary purposes was but two thousand dollars for the whole year. When, therefore, on June 1, 1889, representatives of the State Board of Health of Pennsylvania reached the desolated Conemaugh Valley, to do what could be done to prevent the occurrence and spread of disease among the exhausted and stricken survivors, the best estimates that could be hastily secured showed that ten thousand human beings, one thousand horses, one thousand cows, together with a great number of hogs, dogs, chickens, cats, etc., were drowned and buried in the débris at Johnstown, and in the drift-piles down the river, while ten thousand sufferers were without shelter, wet, hungry, and distracted. There were slime, mud, carcasses of domestic animals, and human bodies everywhere.

"No pen has yet fully described the condition that existed the next day after the waters of the South Fork Lake had swept the valley. The pen will never picture the desolation that existed, or tell of the difficulties that confronted the inhabitants of the stricken valley. The homes that were not swept away were left in the most unsanitary condition imaginable. The flood in many localities reached a height of thirty feet. This water contained