A molasses tank collapsed and caused widespread damage in Boston's North End in January 1919. (The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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Nearly 98 Years Ago, Boston Was Submerged by Deadly Molasses Flood

A five-story tall tank nearly full of molasses burst without warning.

Nearly 98 years ago, on Jan. 15, 1919, a five-story-tall tank almost full of molasses burst in Boston’s North End without warning. A sable wave 25 feet high and 160 feet wide flowed down a hill and then through the city streets at 30 miles per hour. Survivors described the noise the substance made as an ominous hissing or sucking sound, writes The Daily Beast. More than 2 million gallons of molasses swept people away, as well as horses and railroad cars, and leveled stout brick walls. It completely buckled an elevated train track just seconds after one train full of passengers had passed by, and mere moments before another came around the bend. In the end, the flood killed 21 people, injured hundreds of others, caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages and devastated the city. A total of 119 lawsuits were filed against the tank’s owner, which were combined into a class action lawsuit. There were endless questions — Could it have been prevented? Was sabotage involved? And why was there so much molasses in Boston? The Daily Beast has the answer to that last question. Boston was a huge importer of molasses from early on. They put it in brown bread and baked beans, as well as a lot of rum. Some 160 distilleries were making rum in the northern colonies in 1770. But when they died out, Boston refused to let go and a handful of distilleries still made rum into the 20th century, including Purity Distilling, who owned the tank that burst. Ultimately, the accident was blamed on bad design, hasty construction and poor maintenance.

Read the full story at The Daily Beast