Wednesday, 17 May 2017


The Argus, Melbourne, 5 July, 1932
Struggle Against Heavy Fumes.
In the smoke filled forward hold of the
cargo steamer Querimba berthed at No 
7 Victoria Dock, firemen from the Eastern
Hill station worked strenuously for about an
hour yesterday afternoon extinguishing a
fire among closely packed bales of corn
sacks. Several hundred bales of sacks were
damaged by fire and water. It will be impossibe
however to estimate the loss until the hold 
has been emptied This work will occupy about 
two days.
When wharf labourers opened the lower
forward hold about 4 o' clock they were
startled by dense smoke which at once
shot up from it.  Apparently a fire had 
been smouldering among the corn sacks
for a considerable time unsuspected until
the removal of the coverings from the hold,
creating a draught of air which forced the
smoke upwards. The alarm was given and
for a time there was much excitement
among the lascar crew. There was so
much smoke that the whole forward part
of the vessel appeared to be on fire.

The smoke was so dense that only the
shining helmets of the firemen could be
seen from the main deck, a few yards
above their heads. But for their masks
many of them would assuredly have been
overcome by the jute fumes, which all
firemen fear.

The hold contained 1998 bales of sacks
and 5261 sacks of linseed from Calcutta.

This report illustrates that hold fires could remain undetected until 'almost too late'. Once again the smoke emanating from the hold caused danger to life and gave an impression that the whole forward section of the steamer was on fire. Once exposed to a draught the fire could become out of control. One wonders how much of this scenario (if at all) played out during the final hours on board the Waratah. 

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