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From the archives: The Llanelly Mercury, October 15, 1896:

By Llanelli Star  |  Posted: February 01, 2012

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A Great Storm — A terribly destructive storm swept over the Welsh coast on Thursday morning last, destroying life and doing an incalculable amount of damage.

Llanelly was one of the chief sufferers, the experiences of the residents in the lower portions of the town being pitiful to a degree.

Whole districts were inundated, houses flooded, cattle drowned, and the permanent way of the Great Western Railway (G.W.R.) seriously damaged, so much so that the traffic was suspended for two days.

The plight of the occupiers of the dwelling houses in the scene of the disaster is inexpressibly sad, some heartrending cases have been brought to light.

For some weeks past, the weather had been boisterous but it was thought that the culminating intensity of the storm had been reached about a fortnight ago.

It was a hope which succeeding developments violently shattered, for on Thursday morning last the most awful storm in the memory of the proverbial oldest inhabitant swept over the town, the tide, trespassing beyond its appointed limits, surging over embankments and inundating fertile valley and thickly-populated plains.

The weather had been rough all day Wednesday, and the railway traffic had been considerably interfered with.

No-one, however, suspected, for one moment, what was in store.

Had there been any premonition, few of the residents in the Dock district or the Forge would have spent the night in bed, or spent it in the district at all, for at six o'clock they were brought to death's door, and scores were miraculously saved.

Though no lives, fortunately, were lost, an awful amount of damage was done, all the household effects and the wearing apparel of scores of residents being absolutely ruined. As the night wore on, the wind rose, and with the incoming tide, which reached its limit after six o'clock on Thursday morning, came irreparable disaster.

The tide, one of the highest of the year, roared up the estuary, the waves rolled higher and higher, and the foam, which the lashing wind tore into a myriad forms, crested the oncoming water with a ridge of seething whiteness.

The inhabitants, however, suspected no danger, and many a bread-winner was preparing to go forth to work when the relentless water, lashed by the hurricane, swept over the embankment near the old powder house.

The mischief was now afoot and it worked with ungovernable fury.

The tide continued to leap over the banks and rushed and roared up the marshes.

No obstruction could hold it back.

It was irresistible from the moment the embankment ceased to be a protection.

Pouring up the low-lying land, the water surged into factory and dwelling house, tore walls down, submerged the railways and struck terror into the heart of all as they were awakened to a sense of danger.

Nothing like it, we beseech heaven, may ever be known again.

The residents of the entire district from the Morfa works to Trinity were for an hour or more in imminent danger of their lives.

There was no chance of escape for the great majority.

They were affrighted spectators of the devastating storm.

The water rushed like a cataract into the streets, and rose with alarming rapidity, the ground floor being first of all submerged.

Then, the tide crept swiftly and stealthily up the stairs and in the case of some of the worst situated dwellings it besieged the occupants in their own bedrooms.

A population of several thousand people were separated from death by an inconceivably narrow remove.

Providence, however, overruled the tempest, and when escape seemed shut off on every side, the tide began to abate, and absolute and complete inundation did not therefore occur, or occurred in but few cases, and even there not before the imperilled lives were saved.

Meanwhile, an awful amount of damage was being done.

The tide, in its relentless career, curled over the Morfa Colliery, leaving scarcely any of the plant at the pithead observable, and rushing onwards, the Morfa Brickworks were almost entirely submerged, the Machynys Brickworks suffering, if anything, a worse fate, for the waves, taking hold of the office, hurled it down, and for hours it floated roof uppermost.

Pursuing their mad career, the waters rolled onwards, submerging the Morfa Works, whence the men fled for their lives, being obliged to leave unattended two steel charges which were ready to be tapped.

Fortunately, these furnaces are built to a considerable height, else an explosion of terrific violence would have occurred.

The tide must have struck the Llanelly and Dock Railway with terrible velocity, for the metals were twisted and huge portions of the foundation dropped several feet, the telegraph posts on the side being snapped in twain and hurled to the ground.

The chemical works of Mr S. B. Bowen and the Bryn Chemical Works were badly damaged, and the timber yard of Messrs Davies and Williams was flooded to a depth of several feet.

The tide rushed up the Dolau, flooding every street, badly damaging Christ Church and Dock School on the way.

Up the Loughor Valley, from Trostre to Cwmfelin and thence onto Llangennech, it swept with awesome violence.

Farm, factory and dwelling house met with a like fate.

Cattle and horses were enveloped by the waters, and scores were drowned.

From Llanelly to Loughor, practically, the G.W.R. main line was submerged, the permanent way to Llandilo Crossing being damaged to a great extent.

And who can describe the terror of the people? Household furniture floated about, and wearing apparel was either permanently destroyed or carried away.

For hours, little children, tender mothers, and strong men shivered in the cold, waiting for rescue, for clothing, and for food.

On the other side, the results of the storm were scarcely less terrible.

Surging up the Burry Inlet, the tide came in "mountain high" and smote the railway wall with such awful violence that it fell at several points, the debris being hurled onto the metals.

Then the water roared through the gaps and fell with awful force on the permanent way.

The foundations for several hundred yards of track were driven out and washed down the embankment, and the metals riveted to the sleepers were left suspended in the air, there being a yawning cavern beneath.

The water overflowed the usual boundaries and flooded the whole of Forge district, much damage being done and serious distress occasioned.

In the New Dock district, the ground floors of 455 houses were completely covered, and in the Forge district, 75, making a total of 530.

Higher up, in the Cwmfelin and Bynea district, damage no less great was caused, and the resultant distress no less acute."

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