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Nova Scotia marks anniversary of catastrophic Halifax Explosion 102 years ago

Click to play video: 'Woman who was 10-days-old when Halifax Explosion occured passes away' Woman who was 10-days-old when Halifax Explosion occured passes away
Cecilia Coolen, who was just 10 days old when the Halifax Explosion occurred, died last week in Halifax at the age of 102 – Dec 6, 2019

Friday marks the 102nd anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

On December 6, 1917, the cargo ships SS Imo and SS Mont Blanc collided in the harbour, starting a fire on Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc was full of explosives and as it burned, it drifted until it crunched against the dock at Richmond Street.

READ MORE: The Halifax Explosion killed nearly 2,000 people. Here is where most of them lived.

It detonated with one-sixth the destructive force of the early atomic bombs and was the world’s largest artificial blast until an atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.

The explosion was so powerful the shaft of the Mont Blanc anchor was hurled over three kilometres from ground zero, landing on Spinnaker Drive in Halifax, where it’s been preserved ever since.

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The wartime blast resulted in approximately 2,000 deaths an estimated 9,000 wounded, blinded 200 and left 25,000 homeless.

Click to play video: 'Survivors, families remember the Halifax explosion' Survivors, families remember the Halifax explosion
Survivors, families remember the Halifax explosion – Dec 6, 2017

Windows were shattered in homes 100 kilometres away in Truro, N.S., and the ground shook in P.E.I.

The next day, the headline in the Halifax Herald read: “Halifax Wrecked.”

READ MORE: Historians feel mysterious Dartmouth chair ‘likely’ to be linked to Halifax Explosion

On Friday, Halifax residents attended a memorial service at the Fort Needham Memorial Park, which overlooks the former neighbourhood of Richmond — flattened when Mont Blanc exploded.

All Halifax Transit ferries sounded their horns at 9:04:35 a.m., immediately after the cannon on Halifax’s Citadel Hill was fired. 

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The explosion is memorialized in other ways.

Nova Scotia sends an annual gift — a Christmas tree — to the city of Boston for its contribution to relief efforts after the blast.

Vincent Coleman, a 45-year-old railway dispatcher, is remembered for his actions on Dec. 6, 1917.

According to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, a sailor burst through the doors of the Richmond railway station where he worked to warn of the impending explosion.

Coleman was about to leave when he remembered Train No. 10, the overnight train from Saint John, and its hundreds of passengers due to pass along the tracks directly in front of the Mont Blanc, which was now on fire.

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He turned around and sent his famous telegraph.

“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”

Train No. 10 did stop and his message also reached every station from Halifax to Truro.

But Coleman was killed when the Mont Blanc exploded, as were nearly 2,000 other people.

He has been commemorated in stories and coins and even has his own heritage minute.

With files from The Canadian Press, Rebecca Lau and Patrick Cain

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