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The CBC Halifax Explosion Site

 

Main Page > City in Shock > At City Hall

At City Hall

The people who on another day would have been planning the city's growth huddled now to rescue it.

At noon, the lieutenant-governor chaired a meeting of leading citizens at City Hall. Less than an hour later, the Halifax Relief Committee went to work, with members in charge of transportation, shelter, finance, and food.

Later in the day there were more committees: clothing, medical relief, fuel, Dartmouth relief, and a mortuary committee. People from outlying communities poured in to help as soon as a way was cleared.

The people and civic institutions of Halifax had had experience in dealing with disaster a few years before, when 209 bodies from Titanic had come ashore at Halifax.

Halifax Relief Committee

The Halifax Relief Committee was the first of two groups to coordinate relief in the city and Dartmouth. Put together in 45 minutes on December 6, it operated on municipal authority, with support from the lieutenant-governor and the province.

The Committee's members were all high-profile citizens, many of whom were used to working together on other volunteer organizations and projects in support of the war effort.

In January, the Dominion government in Ottawa set up the Halifax Relief Commission, to coordinate long-term relief efforts. It remained in operation until 1976.

Rumour of 2nd Explosion

As people struggled to free themselves and others from burning and collapsed buildings, a terrifying rumour swept through the battered city: there was going to be another explosion.

The rumour was untrue. The clouds of "smoke" that started the rumour were actually steam rising as soldiers put out a fire near an ammunition storage area at the Wellington Barracks.

But the reaction was near panic. Men in uniforms ordered everyone nearby to head for open ground. Thousands of dazed and injured people wandered about Citadel Hill, the Commons, and Point Pleasant Park for several hours.

Most firemen and medical staff ignored the order and stayed on the job, but many people--who might have saved others if they had stayed-- obeyed.

The rumour set rescue efforts back by more than two hours. There's no way to know how many people who were badly injured or trapped in burning buildings died in the meantime.

First Impressions: Order Out of Chaos

“(On our arrival the evening of December 6) we were conveyed by autos to the City Hall where I was surprised to find a better organization for application of relief for sufferers than I anticipated, and the attempt to establish order out of chaos seemed fairly successful. We were distributed by an efficient auto service to the various hospitals where our services were most required…”

Source: Dr. W.B. Moore, account to Explosion, historian Archibald MacMechan

Did you Know

Rumour of a 2nd Explosion: One of the many unanswered questions of the Explosion is: who gave the order to evacuate the devastated area?

Civilians said "men in uniforms" ordered them to leave, but no military or police officer could ever find the source of the order.

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