THE TUNNEL EXPLOSION.
Whether dynamite or nitroglycerine exploded in the rapid transit tunnel works on Murray Hill, Manhattan, New York, or what caused the explosion, are questions to be decided hereafter. So, also, is that as to the amount of the explosive which was stored without the observance of any extra precautions in the frail little wooden shanty that stood on the open street and served as a magazine, whence the cartridges were handed out to the workmen who had charge of the blasting operations. It is sufficient that such an explosion did take place on Monday last, the result of which was a terrible loss of life, grievous hurt to about 150 people, and a wholesale destruction of property running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The one drop of consolation over this fearful occurrence is that had it not been the workmen’s dinner hour the slaughter in the tunnel would have been something too horrible to contemplate. Providentially, however, they were all outside—the majority safely out of harm’s way. It now remains, first, to fix the blame; then for the mayor of the city to see that su’table means arc at once taken (this time in earnest) to prevent the possibility of such a catastrophe happening again on the rapid transit subway, or any city work or quasi-public work of the same kind; then to take care that the fire department officials, from Commissioner Sturgis down through the bureau of combustibles, the fire marshal’s office, and the uniformed force (though their opportunities for detecting and acting on any violations of the law are not so frequent as those of the other officials) do their duty strictly, and put an absolute stop to the illegal storage of high explosives in such quantities as to be a perpetual menace to the public safety; and, lastly, to take heed that no guilty man at whose door may lie, however remotely, the responsibility for this disaster shall escape the punishment prescribed for the violation of the law on the subject. And while we insist upon this, we are forced to admit that the amended charter is itself somewhat to blame for the explosion; for although it expressly lays down that not more than five pounds of dynamite, nitroglycerine, and other high explosives shall be stored in any one place in the city, and then only after special leave asked and obtained, and under certain very strict conditions, yet it puts it in the power of the commissioner of the fire department to grant leave in extraordinary cases for sixty-two pounds to be so carried—not, however, in a ramshackle wooden shanty, put up on the public street and exposed to all the jarrings and other influences that may at any moment cause an explosion or a disastrous fire accompanied by a fearful loss of life and property. The amended charter should be immediately amended still further by the legislature striking that provision out altogether and not allowing the fire commissioner any discretion in the matter. If, also, the rapid transit commissioners are empowered by the terms of their commission to act independently of the city officials and grant the contractor and the subcontractors on the tunnel work leave to carry about freely day by day and store as they will whatever amount of high explosives may daily be called for, according to the nature of the work, then it is full time that that apparently irresponsible body should cease to be trusted with a power at all times full of peril to life and property, and one which (if apparently trustworthy reports are to be believed) they use only to abuse. New York and other cities have already had many awful warnings on the subject, and have not profited by them. We trust that the proper authorities everywhere will learn a lesson from this terrible calamity, and so lay it to heart as to render it morally impossible for any such disaster ever to happen again.