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Halifax: A city in ruins after the explosion

The Story


Halifax is in ruins. Much of the city is destroyed either by the blast, the subsequent tidal wave or the resulting fire. The situation is made worse by a terrible blizzard that begins at midnight, quickly blanketing the city. As seen in this silent television footage, the explosion has obliterated homes, schools, churches, factories, the railway station and freight yards. The powerful blast has shattered most of the windows within an 80-kilometre radius. The aftershock of the explosion is felt as far away as Sydney, Cape Breton; a distance of about 435 kilometres. An estimated 25,000 people from a population of less than 50,000 suddenly find themselves homeless. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 5, 1956
Duration: 6:09
This clip is silent.

Did You know?


• "The heart-shaking underground rumble was followed a few seconds later by the terrifying crash of breaking glass and splintering wood all over the city as windows were shattered and doors forced by the terrific air blast."
-- an eyewitness description of the explosion

• The force of the explosion was so intense that part of an anchor weighing 2,000 kilograms was blown three kilometres across the city. A large chunk of the Mont-Blanc's cannon was found six kilometres away from the explosion site.

• Listen to a 2002 Quirks and Quarks explanation about the force of the explosion.

• Halifax Relief Commission was created days following the 1917 explosion to oversee medical care, social welfare, compensation and reconstruction of homes. It continued to exist until 1976 when it was incorporated into the Canada Pension Commission.

• Official statistics gathered by the Halifax Relief Commission estimated some 1,600 buildings were completely destroyed and 12,000 suffered damage. The total property loss and cost of repairs was estimated at $35 million.


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