Living during Covid-19, I would like to share some interesting but little-known South African facts about that other great viral killer -the Spanish Flu of 1918-20.
As is now accepted the ‘Flu started in the killing fields of the Western Front in mid-1918, apparently in a British field hospital. It was so named as the King of Spain was an early and to that point, most prominent victim. It would ultimately kill an estimated 21 million people globally, one million more than had died in the Great War (Word War 1)
Relating to South Africa, the first rumours of the virus appeared in Durban in early September 1918. Rumours then circulated in Cape Town but were denied. Johannesburg, and its mining community especially, was badly hit with 952 reported cases in the mining sector alone on 25 September. A day later there were 14 000 publicly reported active cases throughout the then town. 100 deaths were simultaneously reported in Kimberley. A few days later the Kimberley mortality figure rose to 1000. It became gruesomely apparent that mining towns and major port cities were the obvious epicentres of the pandemic in South Africa.
19 miners were killed on the East Rand Proprietary mine when the cage operator collapsed at the controls due to the virus, and the cage crashed into the headgear. Soon after, most schools and businesses closed. Banks remained open for a few hours a day. Big and small towns could not cope medically, horse drawn wagons and motor trucks would go round collecting the deceased from hospitals, places of worship, private homes, and the pavement! Small towns ran out of coffins.
When it was all over, 21 000 South Africans from all ethnic and economic backgrounds had died. Kimberley was the worst hit urban centre, with 2500 fatalities. Johannesburg lost several hundred with many buried in the old Braamfontein Cemetery and elsewhere
Remember-Do not become complacent and drop your guard with Covid-19, as you would rather not contract it too start with!
Primary Ref source: Like it was- The star -100 years in Johannesburg 1887-1987 (c1987)