Lahar Meets Locomotive: New Zealand’s Tangiwai Railway Disaster of Christmas Eve 1953
New Zealand’s worst railway disaster occurred on 25 December 1953 at Tangiwai in the central North Island. 151 people died when a lahar from Mount Ruapehu demolished the Whangaehu River bridge ahead of the overnight Wellington–Auckland express. New Zealand’s railways had long experience with floods, but lahars were little understood. This tragedy highlights the class dimensions of environmental disaster, with second-class passengers comprising almost all the fatalities. Tangiwai’s legacy endures within New Zealand’s collective memory: survivors never forgot the sulphuric, muddy torrent, while the environment’s perceived caprice has stimulated a small corpus of works wrestling with mortality.
Copyright (c) 2018 CC BY 4.0 André Brett
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