Hope amid the ru­ins

Canada's History - - CURRENTS -

It’s a scene that likely played out daily — a group of women walk­ing from their home in Africville, Nova Sco­tia, to­wards Hal­i­fax. But this photo, taken in De­cem­ber 1917, is unique, in that it also de­picts the af­ter­math of one of Canada’s worst dis­as­ters. All around the women, the wreck­age of the Hal­i­fax ex­plo­sion is ev­i­dent. The ex­plo­sion oc­curred on De­cem­ber 6, 1917, af­ter a col­li­sion in Hal­i­fax Har­bour be­tween the Nor­we­gian steamship SS Imo and the French ship Mont Blanc, which was at the time loaded with mu­ni­tions des­tined for the First World War’s Western Front. The blast was the largest hu­man-caused ex­plo­sion prior to the in­ven­tion of the atomic bomb. Nearly two thou­sand peo­ple died, and nine thou­sand more were in­jured. Many suf­fered eye in­juries from shat­tered glass. At least twelve thou­sand homes and build­ings were dam­aged. As for Africville, it was shel­tered from the blast due to its lo­ca­tion on Bedford Basin. How­ever, decades later, Africville would be razed by the Hal­i­fax mu­nic­i­pal­ity and its ci­ti­zens forced to re­lo­cate else­where in the city.

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