Thursday, 19 March 2009

African floods + Windsor Castle fire

The Namibian government has declared a state of emergency because of floods that have killed at least 90 people. Crocodiles and hippos are said to be swimming through the flood waters, and attacking people. There have also been deaths in neighbouring Angola, and it is feared that food shortages could follow.

Floods in February and March last year drowned 42 people in Namibia. What was perhaps Africa’s worst ever flood came in 1927 when up to 3,000 were killed in the ports of Mostaganem and Oran in Algeria.

On this day....156 years ago, a young cook at Windsor Castle was about to go to bed when he found his room full of smoke. Queen Victoria was eight months pregnant, and her husband Prince Albert directed the fire-fighting from a window. As the castle’s own brigade, local volunteers and hundreds of soldiers struggled to quell the flames, London’s redoubtable fire chief James Braidwood commandeered a train, loaded engines, horses and men aboard and set off for Windsor.

Braidwood’s team arrived at one thirty in the morning, and by five the fire was out. Most of the damage was confined to the Prince of Wales Tower. The castle would suffer more serious damage in another blaze on November 20, 1992.

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