Catastrophe weaves together compelling stories and potent lessons learned from the calamitous Halifax explosion—the worst non-natural disaster in North America before 9/11. On December 6, 1917, the Canadian city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was shattered when volatile cargo on the SS Mont-Blanc freighter exploded in the bustling wartime harbour. More than sixteen hundred people were killed and nine thousand injured. Across 325 acres, homes, schools, factories, and churches were obliterated.

Written from a scholarly perspective but in a journalistic style accessible to the general reader, this book explores how the explosion influenced later emergency planning and disaster theory. Supported with firsthand and archival accounts, the account examines the disaster from all angles. It deals with the role of women, shows how the medical response was put together, documents the Canadian response, and reveals the problems and benefits of the American response. It provides for the first time an explanation of what really happened based on the unpublished records of the harbourmaster, who tried in vain to stop the Mont-Blanc from entering harbour.

This book will be of particular interest to disaster researchers and emergency planners along with journalists, and scholars of history, Maritime studies, and Canadian studies.

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