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March 31, 2017
Q. The year was 1917, the place Halifax, Nova Scotia, the event perhaps “the largest man-made accidental explosion in history,” killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 more. What happened?
A. Just before 8:45 a.m. on Dec. 6, two ships collided in Halifax waters: the SS Imo, an empty Norwegian passenger/freight ship; and France's SS Mont Blanc, a cargo ship loaded with munitions to support the war effort, says Dan Lewis in his book “Now I Know.” Though the French crew made it to safety, the explosion that followed when Mont Blanc's payload caught fire registered an intensity “roughly one-seventh to one-fifth that of the atomic bomb that struck Hiroshima.” The fallout? The ship was instantly vaporized, a mile-high fire plume erupted, a roughly square-mile blast area was destroyed, and buildings as far as 10 miles from the epicenter sustained structural damage. The aftermath of the explosion included a 60-foot-high tsunami wave at the waterfront, a 10-minute black, sooty “rainfall,” and the destruction of the Royal Naval College of Canada.
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