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14 Terrifying Details About The 1952 London Fog That Killed Over 12,000 People

Updated September 19, 2019 60.3k views14 items

The 1952 Great Smog of London lasted for only four days – from December 5th to the 9th – but in that time it killed thousands. Also known as the Big Smoke, this deadly London fog was no ordinary weather event. The fog blanketing London consisted of tiny particles of sulfuric acid and other compounds that sickened hundreds of thousands – and killed 12,000 London residents.

The killer London fog overtook a city that was already mired in industrial pollution, and it led to a number of environmental regulations being put into place to keep it from happening again. For the city's residents in 1952, however, it was a terrifying experience.

  • More Than 12,000 People Died As A Result Of The Fog

    More Than 12,000 People Died As A Result Of The Fog
    Photo: N T Stobbs / via Wikimedia Commons

    The fog that blanketed the city of London in December of 1952 wasn't the standard kind that comes about when cold air is trapped on the ground by large pockets of warm air. It was toxic and hazardous to breathe. During the immediate aftermath of the fog, officials believed that the effects - bronchitis, pneumonia, and cardiovascular problems - killed 4,000 people. However, recent research has raised that number to a whopping 12,000

  • Visibility Was At Less Than Three Feet For Four Days

    For the entirety of the four days that the fog lingered around London, people couldn't see more than a few feet in front of them. Anyone walking on the streets had to be careful not to run into people coming the other way, who would appear seemingly from out of nowhere. Before all vehicle traffic was shut down, crossing the street became hazardous, and people reportedly couldn't even see their own feet. 

  • Every Source Of Transportation Shut Down

    The thickness of the fog made it very tough for anyone to see where they were going, which made traveling by vehicle incredibly dangerous. People couldn't see the traffic signals at intersections and pedestrians couldn't see oncoming traffic. In order to keep the residents of the city safe, an entire shutdown was needed. Trains were stopped, boats on the Thames couldn't continue on their paths, and cars stayed in the streets where their owners left them in order to head home on foot. The only thing operating was the Tube, as that was underground and safe from fog.

  • Criminals Took Advantage Of The Fog

    Since the fog made it tough to see more than several feet in front of you at a time, the crime rate went up. Burglars broke into homes under the cover of fog, and thieves stood on street corners in what was left of broad daylight and snatched women's purses when the opportunity arose. No one could see the purse snatchers, who only had to walk away and disappear into the fog where law enforcement couldn't find them.