Brazilian press reported last week on a fire at a sugar warehouse in Santa Adelia, Sao Paulo in which up to 30,000 tonnes of sugar melted, highlighting the need for material damage cover within your business insurance. The river of caramel threatened to engulf homes and many residents were evacuated. The local river was contaminated, with dead fish being found up to 5 miles away. Firefighters were still trying to quell the blaze 4 days later.
This comes only a week after a similar fire took hold of and destroyed a warehouse in the port of Santos, Sao Paulo. The warehouse, belonging to Brazil’s biggest exporter of sugar, Copersucar, contained 180,000 tonnes of the stuff.
Now call me a cynic but is there some kind of South American ‘Sugar Mafia’ war going on here or has someone invested heavily in sugar futures?!
These events however are paltry compared to the ‘Great Boston Molasses Flood’ of 1919, when an enormous vat of molasses, a gloopy sweetener used in the production of rum and industrial alcohol, burst open and engulfed everything in its path. The vat was 15 metres high, 27 metres in diameter and contained 2,300,000 gallons of the deadly liquid. Being a ‘non-Newtonian’ fluid, i.e. its viscosity properties change when outside forces are applied, a wave of molasses is more deadly than a tsunami. Consider a bottle of ketchup. In a bottle it moves very little when tilted from side to side, but give the bottom of the bottle a little tap and your full English looks like a murder scene!
At its worst, the waves were over 7 metres high travelling at 35 mph. Buildings were knocked down and several blocks were flooded to a depth of 2-3 feet. In this disaster 21 people were killed, 150 injured and many dogs and horses were also swept away to their demise.
The clean up operation took over 87,000 man hours which is the equivalent of one man working continuously for 10 years. The Purity Distilling Company, which owned the site, was subject to a massive lawsuit in the aftermath of the disaster, which resulted in mandatory inspection of such facilities. The company did not subsequently rebuild the facility.