Irish Potato famine
The Irish potato famine started mysteriously in September 1845 with the leaves of the plant suddenly turning black and curled then rotting. It was seemingly as a result of a fog wafting across the Ireland fields. However, the actual cause was an airborne fungus (pytophthora infestans) transported in the hold of ships that were traveling from North America to England.
The virus was carried by winds from southern England to the Ireland countryside around Dublin. The spread of the blight was so fast and it rapidly spread through the entire fields in the form of fungal spores that settled on the leaves of potato plants that were healthy.
The spores multiplied then they were carried in millions by the cool breezes that surrounded the plants. Under moist ideal conditions, single infected potato plants infected thousands more within a couple of days. The plants attacked fermented while providing the fungus with the nourishment it needed in order to survive.
As the plants blackened, the emitted a nauseous stench then withered leaving the Irish farmers disbelieving. Note that previously, the farmers had experienced crop failures as a result of poor weather and other diseases.
However, the new failure was strange and unlike anything they had ever seen. Potatoes that were dug from the ground looked as if they were edible at first but then, they would shrivel and rot in a matter of days. By October 1845, the news of the blight had spread to London and the British Prime
Minister then, Sir Robert Peel established a scientific commission to look into the problem. After looking at the situation for a while, the commission issues a gloomy report which indicated that half of the potato crop in Ireland might go to waste as a result of ‘wet rot’
Famine fever, dysentery, typhus, dysentery, cholera and scurvy as well as infestations of lice spread throughout the entire Irish countryside. Observers made reports of children crying because of pain and resembling skeletons because their features were already sharpened as a result of hunger. Observers also reported that the limbs of such children were wasted with little left but their bones.
In the next 10 years after outbreak of the Irish potato famine over 750,000 Irish people die while another two million left their home for the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Within 5 years of the famine, the population reduced by a quarter.
The famine was not a simple natural disaster bit a result of social causes. The Irish Potato Famine left in its wake, a legacy of lasting and deep feelings of distrust and bitterness towards the British. The Irish were convinced the famine was as the direct result of British colonial policies outgrowth.
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