The initial explosion sent two gondoliers and a juggler, who was tossing flaming torches, flying several miles into nearby Pawtucket and injured countless more. In the ensuing chaos, hundreds more fell to their deaths in the Providence River, which, according to a new study by the World Health Organization, has surpassed the Chernobyl disaster site in toxicity and has been deemed a greater health risk.
The usually peaceful scene in downtown Providence took a tragic, unexpected turn last Saturday around midnight when mountains of trash and chemicals ignited during a routine performance of WaterFire, a fire sculpture presented on a stretch of the Providence River over half a mile
The whirling firestorm traveled north extremely rapidly along the bonfire path in the center of the river, gaining strength as it reached the Providence Place Mall, where it finally erupted in a four hundred and fifty-foot-tall column of pure flame, launching dozens more performers and bystanders onto nearby rooftops. In fact, a piece of smoldering gondola that landed on Andrews Terrace at Brown University is responsible for loosening some of the rock-solid tiles on the terrace.
The presence of this mighty event has already been felt here on campus, where religious groups are calling this disaster "the beginnings of Armageddon." Political groups are also becoming involved in the debate as to what incited river's fury. "We told you you'd all be smitten if SexPowerGod happened again this year," Zack Drew '07, President of the College Republicans told The Noser. "Didn't Bill O'Reilly warn you?"
But city officials have determined that the river's highly flammable pollutants were the main cause of the blaze.
"I always knew how dirty this river was," said Carlos Reyes, a construction worker who helped clean up the site. "I mean, look at it now. Everything's been burned up and my face is still tingling from the bacteria. I sure hope Dockers Stain Defender works because these pants are all that's keeping my legs from melting right off my hips."
Comments from other officials supported those of Mr. Reyes. When asked about the river's condition, Ms. Holly Jensen, Vice President of WaterFire, merely quipped, "In Providence, you can either blow your brains out or kill yourself with cyanide, but tap water's cheaper than both of them."
Not all of the city's inhabitants had acknowledged or even been aware of the river's dismal state.
"I can't understand it," said Mayor David Cicilline. "I never knew how horribly toxic that river was. Apparently, what I thought was water was actually a river of sludge and decomposing trash. I suppose they'd have been better off calling it GarbageFire."
Most local citizens, however, agreed that the pollution in the river was quite clearly reaching unbearable levels.
"Like I said, it's not a surprise," added Mr. Reyes with a sigh. "The bodies thrown down here by the mob a few years ago stink something terrible when they mix with the toxic chemicals dumped by the factories. It's no shocker that something that smelled that bad went up in flames that quick."
"What can I say," said Former Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci over the phone. "Government corruption is an inflammatory issue in this town."