Saale disaster

The "Saale" was a German passenger ship owned by the North German Lloyd company of Bremen, and was built by the Fairfield shipbuilding company in Glasgow in 1886. She was capable of carrying 1,240 passengers, 150 of which were able to use the First Class accommodation, 90 Second Class berths were available, and up to a thousand steerage passengers could be crammed in. She primarily worked on the express route between Bremen, Southampton and New York.

On the afternoon of 30 June 1900 the "Saale", along with her sister ships "Kaiser Wilhelm der Große", "Main" and "Bremen", were moored alongside piers 1, 2 and 3 in Hoboken, New Jersey. The "Saale" had passengers on board as she was preparing to depart across the Atlantic to Southampton. While they were alongside some cotton that was on the pier caught fire, and due to a strong wind the flames blew over to some barrels of oil and turpentine, which quickly went ablaze. The wind fanned the flames along the pier and over to the ships. The "Kaiser Wilhelm" quickly managed to get up some steam and get away, but there was no such luck for the other ships which moved away ablaze. Those passengers fortunate enough to be above decks on the "Saale" jumped into the Hudson River and managed to swim away; others who were in their cabins were trapped, and screamed out of their cabin windows for help. Tragically the portholes were not big enough for a person to get out of, and so they were either suffocated or burned to death. The "Saale" eventually sank, and when she was raised the charred remains of 99 victims were recovered.

As a result of this disaster it was legislated that portholes had to be big enough for a person of reasonable size to escape.


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