31 JANUARY 1903, Page 19

A. terrible fire, in which upwards of fifty female lunatics

lost their lives, took place at Colney Hatch Asylum early on Tuesday morning. The flames broke out at 5.30 a.m. at the south end of a large annexe, built of corrugated iron and lined with pitch-pine, in which three hundred patients were housed, and aided by a strong wind spread with appalling rapidity through the dormitories. The alarm was promptly given and responded to by the Asylum fire brigade. The local and Metro- politan fire brigades were soon on the spot, and the work of rescue was carried out with splendid courage and energy by the firemen, attendants, and nurses in circumstances of the utmost difficulty, for in the face of fire lunatics are as helpless or as unmanageable as horses. We do not care to dwell on the horrors of the scene. The best that can be said is that in many cases death must have been almost instantaneous. Nor can any useful purpose be served by our commenting on a disaster which will be made the subject of a prompt and exhaustive inquiry. It is, however, worthy of note that the annexe, the structure of which has been described above, had been originally intended as a temporary means of providing accommodation, but that at the end of five years it had been decided to let it stand for five years longer.