On Saturday, Nov. 12, 1955, the town of Nicolet, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River roughly opposite Trois-Rivières, suffered a landslide that took three lives and caused extensive material damage.
“To many who were near the disaster, the landslide was first a dull rumble, then a huge cloud of white dust, then screams and the crash of houses toppling and rending against each other as the slide swept riverward,” we reported two days later, referring to the Nicolet River. We quoted officials as blaming the slide on the area’s clay soil, which had given way.
“Until power was shut off, short-circuiting made bright flashes in the white dust storm raised by the roaring sand and clay as the mass slid out into the water. Jets of water from broken mains cut through the dust and ran down into the tangled mass of debris, mixing like the ingredients of a giant stirring bowl,” we wrote.
The result was what looked like a bomb crater, we said, and “filling the crater were smashed automobiles, half-buried hydro and telephone poles, wrecked homes, sewer piping and puddles of water.”
It was the second tragedy to befall the town in less than a year. The previous March, 32 houses had gone up in flames, we recalled.
This aerial photo ran on Page 1 of our Monday Nov. 14, 1955 edition, part of our copious coverage of the tragedy. The damaged building at the edge of the newly created precipice was the bishop’s palace, torn in half as the land under part of it gave way. (The building’s occupants fled in time, escaping injury.) The cathedral behind it suffered damage and was replaced a few years later.
History Through Our Eyes: Photos of People and Events That Shaped 20th Century Montreal, which compiles the original 2019 series in book form, is available online from montrealhistorybooks.com and at local bookstores. A portion of proceeds from books sold at the online address will go to the Gazette Christmas Fund.
History Through Our Eyes: May 4, 1971 mudslide in Saint-Jean-Vianney
History Through Our Eyes: Aug. 23, 1948, fire at the Bonaventure freight yards
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