The Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion

Kayak (Canada) - - FICTION FEATURE -

The Mont-Blanc was sail­ing into Hal­i­fax on the morn­ing of Dec. 6, 1917, to join ships tak­ing ex­plo­sives and weapons to the bat­tle­fields of the First World War. The much larger Imo was hur­ry­ing out of the har­bour for New York, where it would load up with sup­plies to help peo­ple in Belgium suf­fer­ing from the war. The two ships got their sig­nals con­fused and the Imo smashed into the Mont-Blanc. In mo­ments, huge flames cov­ered the decks of the Mont-Blanc. The ship’s crew des­per­ately rowed for shore in their lifeboats. Al­most no one else knew about the Mont-Blanc’s deadly cargo. Peo­ple fol­lowed the plume of smoke into the har­bour, and kids on their way to school stopped to watch the ship burn. Brave Vincent Cole­man, a tele­graph oper­a­tor who might have been able to es­cape when a sailor told him the Mont-Blanc was about to blow up, in­stead stayed be­hind to warn in­com­ing trains to stop. About 18 min­utes later, just be­fore 9:05 a.m., the Mont-Blanc ex­ploded. The blast flat­tened the city’s west end, de­stroyed the Mi'kmaq com­mu­nity of Tuft’s Cove, and blew out win­dows for kilo­me­tres around. The shock wave it caused tossed peo­ple sev­eral me­tres, even sev­eral blocks. Build­ings col­lapsed or burned. Glass flew ev­ery­where, caus­ing ter­ri­ble in­juries. A huge wave of water crashed up into the city, sweep­ing peo­ple and things ev­ery which way. More than 1,900 peo­ple died, 9,000 were in­jured and 6,000 were left with­out a home. Fly­ing glass com­pletely or partly blinded more than 300 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 48 chil­dren. Adults and chil­dren alike were ed­u­cated at the Hal­i­fax School for the Blind so they could still earn a liv­ing. Af­ter the ex­plo­sion, strangers worked to­gether to help those in need. Doc­tors and nurses flooded in from all over Nova Sco­tia and beyond. The ter­ri­ble dis­as­ter of Dec. 6, 1917, was the worst hu­man-caused ex­plo­sion in his­tory un­til the first atomic bomb was set off in 1945. Ev­ery year on Dec. 6, United Memo­rial Church in Hal­i­fax holds a ser­vice to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion.

Hal­i­fax Har­bour af­ter the blast

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