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The Community

Halifax had dozens of community groups, many of them already well-organized and working for the war effort. Projects such as the preparation of "care packages" and comfort packages of blankets were now needed at home as much as in war-ravaged Europe.

St. John Ambulance, whose first Canadian brigade had been established in Halifax 25 years earlier, went to work quickly on the ruined streets.

The Salvation Army Will open a new window ol set up teams to serve meals in shelters and do other volunteer work as needed. One Army ensign found himself assisting in a hospital operating room.The Red Cross -- its entire Halifax membership consisting of women--focussed on bringing medical supplies to aid stations and hospitals.

Women had made their way into many areas of the workforce during World War I. When you look closely at some of the photographs taken after the Explosion, you can see women working in the hospitals and offices, and even on the cleanup crews.

Transportation and Communication

The first priorities were clear: to save lives and fight fires.

After that came clearing the streets and railways, and getting the harbour and communications systems running again.

Sometimes, military, fire and rescue crews had to do it all at once, clearing a passage to reach both casualties and fires. They used anything they could find with wheels. If a vehicle's owner didn't volunteer, the wagon, car or van was commandeered.

Makeshift ambulances made their way slowly up Gottingen Street toward the hospitals south of Citadel Hill. They navigated around wreckage and dazed survivors walking aimlessly. Many of the wanderers were badly hurt but seemed unaware of their injuries, as they looked for homes that were no longer there.

The rail lines were battered and blocked throughout the north end. Both the main passenger station at North Street and the harbour terminals near the blast site were unusable.

At first, trains from outside could only get as far as Rockingham. They arrived with relief and medical workers and left with casualties and refugees. Later, trains were diverted down a newly-built line, to a station under construction in the south end of the city.

The Explosion had severed the telephone cable link between Halifax and Dartmouth, and many telephone and telegraph wires and poles were down. For several hours after the Explosion, much of Halifax and Dartmouth had little or no contact with the outside world.

Telephone service was limited for days, and people were encouraged not to use their phones except for emergencies. Continue >

 

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Devastation detail, interactive feature The Devastated Area, interactive feature Thomas Raddall - An Innocent Standing By, interactive feature
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View Halifax map in 1917 Red Cross
Red Cross
Immediate aid from the Red Cross.
Black silhouette of a man Did you know

Telephone Cable: The explosion had severed the telephone cable link between Halifax and Dartmouth. Telephone and telegraph wires and poles were down throughout Halifax and Dartmouth. For several hours after the Explosion, much of Halifax had little or no contact with the outside world.

Telephone service was limited for days, and people were encouraged not to use their phones except for emergencies…just as they would be today in similar circumstances.


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