Monday, July 12, 2010

365/186 - Weeping Waters

365/186 - Weeping Waters, originally uploaded by dragonsinger.

At 10.21 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1953 the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, 10 kilometres west of Waiouru in the central North Island. Of the 285 passengers on board, 151 died in New Zealand's worst railway accident.

It was, at the time, the world’s eighth-biggest rail disaster and made headlines around the globe. The nation was stunned. With New Zealand’s population at just over two million, many people had a direct relationship with someone involved in the tragedy.

The place name Tangiwai means ‘weeping waters’ in Maori. The timing of the accident added to the sense of tragedy. Most of those on the train were heading home for Christmas, armed with presents for friends and family. Over the following days, searchers found many battered, mud-soaked presents, toys and teddy bears on the banks of the Whangaehu River. Those waiting to meet their loved ones at the various stations up the line had no sense of the tragedy unfolding on the volcanic plateau.

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