CHILE: Whoever Dun It. . .

Through the night, the nitrate-laden Mapocho labored up the Chilean coast. The ship's bell tolled once—half-past midnight. Suddenly, explosions in the hold bounced the dinky, 63-year-old ship about. Flames burst above deck, firing lifeboats before they could be launched. The trapped crew and passengers scrambled for their lives. In half an hour the Mapocho went down, taking at least 83 people with her.

The Mapocho disaster underlined anew the old superstition that disasters run in cycles of three. Two other Chilean ships had been plagued by mysterious fires in recent weeks. In Valparaiso, stevedores loading the merchantman Naguilan had discovered...

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