1952 London Fog – A Necessary Evil, Arrival of the Great Fog, and More
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1952 London Fog
Sure, the 1952 London fog was formed by natural causes, but the frequency used to appear in the city.
(To the point of becoming something every day) was due to human activity factors. We talked about the industries’ smoking chimneys that dumped tons of smoke in the sky over the city.
In 1952, this problem led to a nightmare. An episode that went down in history as “The Great Smog”.
A fog-like never seen before settled over London, and by the time it dispersed, the toll was thousands of people dead.
A necessary evil.
Except for smokers, no one likes to smoke, but Londoners considered it a necessary evil in the past.
Smoke was an inherent part of life in the empire’s capital. It was one of the bitter fruits of progress and modernity.
In London, the Industrial Revolution broke out. And that the chimneys of all those industries, located very close to the city.
They released horrifying amounts of smoke from the burning of fossil fuels every day.
By the early 1950s, air quality had been seriously affected by decades of accumulation of particles released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
In December 1952 London fog, the situation reached a critical point. An atmospheric phenomenon is known as an anticyclone formed over London.
The arrival of the Great Fog.
December 5 had been a dry and clear day, with no clouds or the frequent grey sky, but things began to change rapidly when evening fell.
The temperature plummeted, and the fog started to develop in a compact formation, like a wall of black smoke that filtered the sun’s rays, giving rise to a bright colouration in the environment.
The fog became so dense that visibility was reduced to a few meters. In the streets, avenues and squares, public lighting was turned on.
The cars drove with extreme care, practically blind. Many coughed or cleared their throat, and most began to cover their mouths and noses with cloths in an attempt to appease the discomfort.
A city in despair.
The night passed, and when morning came, the fog was still there, as heavy as the day before. People who had left clothes on the clotheslines could see the clothes stained black.
The windows were also covered in a layer of soot. To make matters worse, it had been a cold night, and people had turned on the charcoal heaters inside their residences.
But there was another primary concern: during the day, the fog was acquiring a characteristic stench resulting from the formation of sulfur dioxide, typical for a dark green color.
People who ventured out of the house for work carried lamps. They were beginning to feel ill after just four blocks: dizziness, weakness, nausea, numbness. There were poisoned people in the fog.
Hospitals began to be overwhelming. People came rushing in complaining of shortness of breath—some being carried away passed out or wholly suffocated.
Oxygen tanks became a staple and quickly became scarce. The ambulances could not cope, so the wagons began to circulate as an emergency.
The horses that pulled them bleed from their noses, mouths and eyes in that toxic cloud. By day 6 there were already more than half a thousand deaths due to the fog.
Animals have also affected: birds plummeted over the city, dogs howled, and zoo animals remained cornered.
The realm of death.
Rumours spread like wildfire: for some, it was the end of the world. They began to say that all of England was the victim of that damn fog. All of Europe and even the whole world.
The most extreme claimed that it had originated in the depths of the Earth, in hell itself. Radio and television tried to keep citizens informing, but very little was known about the subject.
No one knew where that black mist had come from, much less when it would leave. As a consequence of this uncertainty, suicides skyrocketed.
On the morning of the 7th, visibility barely reached 30 centimetres. The sulfur dioxide had mixed with other pollutants to create clouds of sulfuric.
And hydrochloric acid that burned the eyes and lungs.
Hospitals received patients with purple lips, bleeding noses and severe respiratory crises. When they inhaled hydrochloric acid, they damaged the lung’s pleurae.
Which reacted by producing fluid, triggering an effect similar to drowning. Additionally, many people who did not protect their eyes adequately found that exposure to mist would blind them in the long run.
On December 9, when hospitals were already counting more than 400 fatalities, a sudden wind began to blow, and the fog dissipated.
It was a relief amid all that suffering that the population had gone through. Despite this, the authorities directed everyone to stay home.
One more day, supplies were distributing door-to-door and hastily-made masks outside the city.
The seamstresses worked non-stop, making masks against the fog. In some residences, no one answered calls.
However, in many of these places, the smoke had leaked out, and people had perished in their sleep. Corpses covering by a thin film of soot were found.
By December 10, the inhabitants of London abandoned their shelters and ventured into the streets. They found a city darkened by tiny particles of coal.
The Great Fog of 1952 remains the most significant environmental tragedy in English history. Officially it was estimating that the number of deaths reaching 4,000.
The most common cause of death was asphyxia and acute lung infection in the years that followed.
Many people exposed to the fog reported respiratory illnesses from exposure: bronchopneumonia, purulent bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis became endemic.
Around 12,000 people died in the five years that followed that five-day period that plunged London into a terrible fog.