Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Halifax Explosion Kills 2000 -- December 6, 2017

New York Sun, 07-December-1917
100 years ago today, on 06-December-1917, two ships, one loaded with ammunition, collided in the harbor Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The French ammunition ship caught fight, then exploded.  2000 people may have died and damage was extensive.  Help poured in from all over Canada and the United States.  Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to Boston every year to acknowledge their help.


Thousands More Injured, Shipping Is Destroyed and Millions of Dollars Property Damage Done in British Naval Base
Relief Being Sent to Stricken City From All Parts of Canada and From United States -- Utter Darkness Prevails

Special Despatch to The SUN.

HALIFAX, Dec. 6. -- Confused whistle signals exchanged between the French munition ship Mont Blanc and the Norwegian steamship Imo, resulted this morning in a collision that caused an explosion which killed more than 2,000 persons, injured thousands and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property.

Five thousand tons of high explosives on board the Frenchman blew up with terrific force. Two square miles of the town of Halifax and the suburb of Richmond were shaken and devastated and a fire that followed completed the havoc that had already been begun. Ships in the harbor, among them the Canadian cruiser Niobe, were-damaged. Two of the crew of the Niobe were killed and many more injured.

The French steamship was coming into port and was headed for Pier 8, one of the new piers constructed along the northern end of the water front. The Norwegian ship was outward bound. The Mont Blanc signaled that she was going to starboard. The Norwegian did not get the signal correctly and rammed the munition ship.

There came at first a minor explosion and fire on board the Frenchman. Her crew took to the boats and escaped. Seventeen minutes after the first shock the entire 5,000 tons of high explosives in her hold exploded. There is no shipping record of the Norwegian vessel by which she can be accurately identified.

HALIFAX, N. S., Dec. 6 -- The estimate of the dead, which grew from 800 to 1,000 and then to 2,000, was made by Chief of Police Hanrahan after twenty-five wagons loaded with bodies had reached one morgue. All during the afternoon and night these wagons of the dead continued their journeys.

It was not possible, in the demoralization and in the dark, to get accurate statements an to either the total number of killed or injured. By the uncertain light of lanterns rescue parties are hourly bringing new bodies from the ruins and are finding new cases of injury.

Bodies of sailors are being taken from the water Relief parties are working in wrecked buildings and darkened streets, and above all of the destruction and damage by explosion the menace of fire came to sweep the afflicted area and to put the finishing touches upon the work of destruction.

Relief Is on the Way.

From the North street railway station to Africville, to the northwest, the line of devastation threads its blackened path. Richmond, at the extreme northern point of the jutting landscape that marks the position of Halifax on the map, has suffered most. From all sides the people of Canada and of the United States, spurred on by the War Departments of both countries, are rushing to the relief of the stricken people.

Nova Scotia stands out at the eastern end of Canada like a huge pair of geographical brass knuckles, offering an offensive and defensive front out to the world. At the centre of the knuckles sits Halifax, a city of 50,000 famed as a shipping point and protected by a landlocked harbor. Here It was that the British stopped all oversea traffic bound for the danger zone before it was allowed to proceed. Here it was inspected and searched for such things as might make (Cut off here - JT)

Along the water front of the town, starting at a point somewhat to the north and east of Sackvllle street, the piers begin and run their numbered way north, bending slightly back to the west to conform to the coast line. Pier 8 lay well to the north of the town's centre of gravity.

How Disaster Occurred.

It was into Pier 8 at 9 o'clock this morning that the Mont Blanc made her way, laden to the limit with high explosives that had been prepared for the campaign on the western front. The ship came to an Atlantic port in the United States November 9. There she loaded, and as is usual in such cases there the story of her being for the time ended. She was the property of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, built in Middlesboro in l899, and boasting a gross tonnage of 3,l2l and 320 feet of length over all.

There came at the same time the relief ship. What happened one may never know The pilot of the Mont Blanc says that there was a confusion of whistle signals. At any rate then came a direct, straight blow of the relief ship amidships of the munition carrier, and then an explosion and a fire. Before the Mont Blanc escaped. Hardly had they done so when the big mass of high explosives exploded with a roar that assumed the most terrific proportions and the vibrations that followed tumbled buildings as it progressed.

Fire Quickly Follows.

The building which were not demolished by the force of the terrific explosion were destroyed by the fire which followed. Scores of persons were injured by the collapse of the railway station, arena rink, military gymnasium, sugar refinery and elevator.

All business has been suspended. Armed guards of soldiers and sailors are patrolling the city. Not a street car is moving and port of Halifax is in darkness to-night. All hospitals and many private homes are filled with injured. Temporary hospitals and morgues have been opened in school houses in the western section of the city.

The damage along the waterfront cannot yet be estimated. Many of the men comprising the crews of the ships in the harbor were killed and injured. On one steamship, the Piotou, it is reported that thirty-three of the crew of forty-two were killed. Bodies of many seamen have been picked up in the harbor. Rescue parties working among the ruins of buildings are removing the bodies of the dead.

The collision which resulted in probably the worst disaster in the history of the Dominion occurred near pier 3, in the narrows leading from the harbor to Bedford Basin. The munitions ship was hound from New York for Bedford Basin when the relief ship Imo, bound for sea, crashed into her.

The Mont Blanc was pierced on the port side almost to the engine room. The other ship. which was only slightly damaged, backed away, for when flames burst out on the munitions ship, and it was abandoned by the crew the captain of the Mont Blanc also ordered his crew to the boats as he realized an explosion was inevitable. The men reached shore safely before the tremendous blast seventeen minutes later, which blew the ship to pieces and wrecked a large part of the city.

The business life of the city had just begun for the day when the town was shaken to its foundations by the explosion. Persons In the streets were locked up bodily and hurled to the ground. Occupants of office buildings cowered under a shower of falling glass and plaster. Houses In the Richmond section crumpled up and collapsed, burying their tenants.

In the main part of the city, where the buildings are chiefly of stone or concrete, the damage was confined to the shattering of windows, and most of the casualties in this section were caused by flying glass.

In the west and northwest ends the damage was more extensive and there the walls of many houses were blown to bits. It was in Richmond, however, opposite the scene of the explosion, that the havoc was greatest. Whole blocks of dwellings, mostly of frame construction, being levelled.

Fires Burn Till Exhausted.

Street after street is in ruins and the structures which were left standing by the explosion were destroyed by fires which broke out simultaneously In a score of places and which it was impossible to check until they had burned themselves out. It is believed scores of persons who had been injured by the collapse of their homes perished in the flames, from which they were helpless to flee. The fires in this district, still are smoldering to-night.

Five minutes after the explosion the streets in all parts of Halifax were filled with frenzied, panic stricken throngs striving to reach the outskirts in an effort to escape what they believed was a raid by a German fleet. Hundreds of them had been cut by the shower of glass which followed the explosion.

In the Richmond section the scenes enacted defied description. Seriously injured men and women crawled from the wreckage of their homes and lay in the streets until they were removed in ambulances and automobiles to hospitals. Those less seriously hurt aided those more gravely injured. In the streets piled high with debris were found the shattered bodies of many women and children. Several children were crushed to death when they were hurled against telegraph poles by the force of the explosion.

Many Perish In Flames.

In scores of cases occupants of houses who had escaped without injury or who were only slightly hurt were baffled by the flames in their search for members of their families and were forced to stand by impotent while what once had been their homes became funeral pyres for loved ones.

A government employee named MacDonald, who made all speed to reach his home after the explosion, found that his wife and four children had perished. His two-year-old daughter had been killed while playing in the yard of her home...


Special Train Carries Supplies and Doctor to Stricken City.

Boston, Dec. 6. -- The State of Massachusetts came promptly to the relief of stricken Halifax and a special train carrying supplies and doctors, with A. C. Ratchesky of the Public Safety Committee in charge, left at 10 o'clock tonight. He carried with him a personal message from Gov. McCall and a force of physicians furnished by the state's National Guard. On board were eleven physicians, ten nurses and two quartermasters, all members of the State guard; five Red Cross workers and a party of newspaper men. The baggage car was filled with medical supplies and hospital cots.

No comments: