3 February 2007

A bombing in a Baghdad market kills at least 135 people.

The 3 February 2007 Baghdad market bombing was the detonation of a large truck bomb in a busy market in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on 3 February 2007. The suicide attack killed at least 135 people and injured 339 others. The bomb, estimated to be about one ton in weight, brought down at least 10 buildings and coffee shops and obliterated market stalls in a largely Shi‘ite enclave less than a half mile from the Tigris River.

The attacks killed at least 135 and injured 339 others, making it the deadliest attack since the Sadr City bombings of 23 November 2006. The blast was the worst of four massive bomb attacks in the preceding three weeks, all targeting dense Shi’ite areas in Baghdad and Al Hillah, including an attack on 22 January 2007 in another central Baghdad market that killed at least 88 and injured more than 160. The same market was hit by a series of car bombs on 2 December 2006, which killed more than 50 people. After the explosion, the closest hospital was quickly overwhelmed with patients affected by the blast. A Health Ministry official said the death toll was likely to rise significantly. The Iraqi Interior Ministry estimated that about 1,000 people had been killed throughout Iraq in the preceding week due to gunbattles, drive-by shootings and bomb attacks.

According to police, the attacker was driving a truck carrying food when the explosives detonated, destroying stores and stalls that had been set up in the busy outdoor Sadriyah market. Many people were looking to purchase food before a curfew scheduled for that evening; it is likely the suicide bombers planned this in order to cause maximum casualties.

3 February 1931

New Zealand’s worst natural disaster, The Hawke’s Bay earthquake, kills 258 people.

In 1931, New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake devastated the cities of Napier and Hastings. At least 256 people died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake – 161 in Napier, 93 in Hastings, and 2 in Wairoa. Many thousands more required medical treatment.

256 or 258?
The official death toll of the Hawke’s Bay earthquake is 256. But there are 258 names on the memorial, and this unofficial number is likely to be correct.

On Tuesday morning, 3 February 1931, at 10.47 a.m., the ground in the Hawke’s Bay region heaved sharply upward and swayed. A deceptive half-minute pause was followed by a downward motion and violent shaking and rocking. In all, the quake spanned two and a half minutes.

Fatalities
As buildings began to disintegrate, many people fled outdoors into a lethal rain of chunks from ornate facades, parapets and cornices. Buildings swayed violently, and their walls bulged and collapsed into the streets in avalanches of brick and masonry that crushed vehicles and people. Roofs caved in on buildings that had large open internal areas, such as churches, libraries and theatres. In some buildings the internal floors pulled free of the swaying walls, collapsing inward in a jumble of girders, wood and plaster.

In Napier, the recently built Nurses’ Home collapsed, killing clerical staff and off-duty nurses who were sleeping. In Hastings at least 50 people were in Roach’s department store when it collapsed; 17 died and many were seriously injured. The entire front of the five-storey Grand Hotel in Hastings crumbled into Heretaunga Street, claiming eight lives. Fifteen died at the Park Island Old Men’s Home near Taradale, but a 91-year-old man was pulled alive from the rubble three days later.

The earthquake struck on the first day of school after the summer holidays. Most pupils managed to escape to the outdoors in time, but nine students died in the wreckage of the brick Napier Technical College. Several of those students had gone back into the school to rescue trapped classmates. Seven students also died at the Marist Fathers’ Seminary in Greenmeadows.

Everybody out
This account is from Jock Stevens, who was at Napier Boys’ High School when the earthquake struck:

‘A boy said “Earthquake, Sir!” We were immediately struck with the full force of the quake. The master in charge, Matt Alexander, said “Everybody out!” … The shakes sent me flying onto the floor of the doorway and I can still feel the feet of the class trampling over me. I got to my feet and from there I saw the Assembly Hall collapse like a pack of cards – each wall fell in then the tiled roof came down. Then dust clouds blotted it out.’

The fires begin
Within minutes of the earthquake, fire began in three Napier chemist shops in the business district. Firefighters were almost helpless – water pressure faded to a trickle as the reservoir emptied. Attempts to pump sea water from the beach were short-lived, as hoses quickly became blocked by shingle. By mid-afternoon Napier’s business area was ablaze. Some 36 hours later, after a remarkable attempt by firemen, volunteers and sailors working through the night, the fires were extinguished. Almost 11 blocks of central Napier were gutted. Fires also sprang up in Hastings, but water supplies were available there shortly after the earthquake and fire damage was less extensive.

Ahead of the spreading fires and amidst continuing aftershocks, desperate rescuers, using crowbars, shovels, picks, and their hands, worked to reach people trapped in wrecked buildings. Some could not be rescued in time; a doctor administered a lethal overdose of morphine to an injured woman trapped in the ruins of St John’s Cathedral before fire reached her. A number of rescuers were killed as aftershocks caused further collapses.

3 February 1897

The Greco-Turkish War starts.

The Greco-Turkish War of 1897, also called the Thirty Days’ War and known in Greece as the Black ’97 or the Unfortunate War , was a war fought between the Kingdom of Greece and Ottoman Empire. Its immediate cause was the question over the status of the Ottoman province of Crete, whose Greek majority long desired union with Greece. Despite a decisive Ottoman military victory, an autonomous Cretan State under Ottoman suzerainty was established the following year, with Prince George of Greece and Denmark as its first High Commissioner. This was the first war effort in which the military and political personnel of Greece were put to test since the Greek War of Independence in 1821.

The most important wounds of the unfortunate war hurt Greece’s pride and prestige. Nobody ultimately assumed clear responsibility for all this; the initial anger of the throne and the successor became attenuated as time went by.
For reasons of ‘national dignity’, perhaps, the Greeks were content to adopt an anti-German attitude and the conspiratorial interpretation of history, neglecting, until recently, to examine more calmly what the Cyprian Salpix called ‘our noble blinding’.