Friday, 8 July 2016

Halifax, a Casualty of War part 3

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, rescue efforts began but many were broken off too soon when warnings came that a fire threatened the magazine at the Military Barracks. Due to quick action, this threat didn't materialize. Reliable news was hard to come by and there were rumours of German sabotage, especially in the areas that had not seen the Mont Blanc burning in the harbour. News was not going in or out of the city.

The explosion had downed telegraph lines and Halifax was cut off from the rest of the world. But news of the disaster had been sent to the outside world as the ship was burning in the harbour. Telegraph operator, Vince Coleman, sent out word of the impending explosion to warn an incoming training; a heroic act that cost his life. This message let the outside world know something had happened. Although the scope of the disaster was not known help was sent. Soon doctors, nurses and medical supplies were converging on the city by train. Halifax's doctors, nurses and volunteers had worked around the clock for days tending to injuries but the injured kept on coming. Help from outside was welcome. 

Many were beyond aid and the death toll mounted as bodies were found among the ruins and people succumbed to their injuries in the hospitals. There were so many dead that a makeshift morgue was set up in the basement of the Chebucto Road School. People looking for missing family members could check there to see if they recognized their loved ones. But many remained unidentified.

Medical train entering Halifax in the blizzard following the explosion
MacDonald, Laura M., Curse of the Narrows, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, Toronto, Ontario, 2005

Metson, Graham, The Halifax Explosion December 6, 1917, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, Toronto, Ontario, 1978

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