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Rescue effort following the Halifax Explosion

The Story


Hundreds of volunteers descend upon Halifax to start the daunting task of rebuilding a shattered city. The rescue operation begins almost immediately, says Halifax historian Lou Collins in this CBC Radio clip. The Halifax Relief Commission, established in response to the explosion, is instrumental in organizing aid for the injured, shelter for the homeless and food for the hungry. On the night of the explosion, the city of Boston prepares two trains filled with medical supplies, equipment for a 500-bed hospital as well as doctors and nurses. Aid comes from as far away as France, England, Australia and New Zealand. Within a few days, hundreds of physicians are in Halifax working non-stop, sewing up victims, removing eyes and operating under crude conditions. Many doctors collapse from sheer exhaustion. Search and rescue parties work around the clock to recover the dead and the injured. Amidst the horror, a spirit of brotherhood prevails as thousands of ordinary folks offer their homes, share meals and volunteer whatever time and resources they can. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Between Ourselves
Broadcast Date: Dec. 3, 1977
Guest(s): Lou Collins
Duration: 6:13

Did You know?


• Every year Halifax sends a Christmas tree to Boston as a gift of thanks for its generous help during the Halifax explosion. The tradition began in 1971.

• The Halifax relief effort was enormous. It wasn't until January 1918 that troops were finally relieved from the gruesome task of recovering bodies from the wreckage.

• A total of $30 million was contributed to the Halifax relief effort.

• Sir John Craig Eaton, whose father Timothy Eaton founded the Eaton's department store, sent two railway cars filled with medical supplies and food to Halifax following the explosion. Sir John was there to personally hand out supplies to the victims.


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