The Halifax Explosion
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