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Category Archives: Catastrophy

Great Banks Earthquake & Tsunami of 1929

Tsunami in Burin Pen on November 18, 1929

The “Great Banks Earthquake of 1929” centred just off the south coast of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean. The earthquake measured 7.2 on the Richter scale at 5:15 pm. Just after 7 pm, people in the village of St. Lawrence saw the water in their harbour raise to thirty metres (99 feet).The tsunami caused 28 deaths, hundreds of people homeless, and nearly $400,000 in damage costs (nowadays that is roughly $5.5 million). The tsunami was to have been felt by those as far as New York.

When the waves first hit the coast, they hit hard. They first hit at 40 kilometres an hour and caused sea levels to rise from up to three metres all the way up to a shocking seven meters. In the narrow bays of peninsula the level rose by an even more shocking height of 13 metres and in some places, 27 metres! This made it possible for there to be houses lifted off their foundations and to be carried away by the waves of the sea. Not only causing devastation, but taking literally taking the homes of communities.

The Globe and Mail reported:

“The earthquake threshed the bed of the Atlantic with sufficient force to sever ten of the twenty-one cables connecting the Easter and Western Hemispheres.”

Hence, the people could not send out an S.O.S.

Although the tsunami’s three waves hit Burin Peninsula within the space of 30 minutes and sea levels had returned to normal after about two hours, it had destroyed more than homes. Thousands of victims confused by what had happened and upset. Many people missing and presumed dead. The mental impact this had on the victims is unimaginable.

On a final note, here is another first-hand experience of the events:

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The Regina Cyclone

The “Regina Cyclone” hit the town of Regina, Canada, on June the 30th of 1912 and has since been seen as one of the most destructive tornadoes ever to hit Canada. Hitting an estimated wind speed of 800 kilometres an hour the tornado had quite an impact on people’s lives.

Here are some statistics on the impact caused by the tornado:

  • Wind speed of 800 km/h
  • Caused $1,200,000 in damage costs (today that would be around $485 million dollars)
  • More than 2,500 people’s homes were destroyed and were homeless afterwards
  • 28 people died due to the tornado
  • The tornado traveled over 12 kilometres before dissipating
  • It took nearly 40 years to repay all the debt that had built up from rebuilding costs

All of these show just the devastating impact that the tornado had on not only the people, but the financial status of the country!

Pictures taken after the cyclone had dissipated show that the downtown area of Regina had the worst damage compared to the rest of the city.

 

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The Frankie Slide at Turtle Mountain

Frank Slide on May 5, 1971

The “Frank Slide” was a tragic rock-slide that took place across the town of Frank, a town known for coal-mining. The town was in the Northwest of Alberta. The slide itself consisted of 82 million metric tonnes of limestone, and nearly half a mile long, falling down from Turtle Mountain and into the “Crowsnest River” that was at the bottom of the mountain. Lasting a little longer than 90 seconds yet still managing to kill an estimated 90 people, the Frank Slide was one of Canada’s most deadliest rock-slides.

The biggest question is, “What caused the slide?”. The answer is simply that the structure of Turtle mountain was very unstable due to thrust forces and gravity, and this tragedy was inevitably going to happen.

The “Frankie Slide” Myth

Shortly after the slide, a myth was created about a baby girl having survived the rock avalanche, but was inaccurate. The story itself is somewhat true in saying that there were several younger girls that survived, although the part of the story that mentions a baby girl being the sole survivor, was a tad far-fetched.

There were three girls who survived the rock-slide. Three year old Fernie Watkins, two-year old Marion Leitch, and 15 month old Gladys Ennis. The youngest of the three was found choking on mud and was saved by her parents. Stories began to spread that Gladys was called “Frankie Slide” and that she was the sole survivor of the rock-slide, which was as we now know, false. In fact, she alongside the two other girls, were among the other twenty plus people who had survived the rock-slide and had become victims of the Frank Slide.

Future Damage

A future avalanche is inevitable unfortunately. Scientists believe that as Turtle Mountain continues to move at a few millimetres every year, the forces which are holding the mountain together and keeping the structure stable will eventually be overpowered by the unfortunate forces of gravity leading to yet another rock-slide. However, the same scientists do not believe that there will be a rock-slide at the same side of the mountain, but it will in fact be towards the south of the mountain.

Concluding the unfortunate incident, the damage that was caused by the rock-slide consisted of many miners homes, farms, railway lines, factories and even the Frank cemetery. The slide left hundreds devastated and while many were unharmed by it, their homes destroyed and having to start again. A lot of those who lived in the town of Frank started lives elsewhere and the town begun to lessen in population.

 

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Canada’s Worst Avalanche Disaster

The 1910 Rogers Pass Avalanche killed 58 men clearing a railroad line near the summit of Rogers Pass across the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia on March 4, 1910. It is Canada’s worst avalanche disaster.

Photo of workers recovering bodies from the avalanche

Workers recover bodies and clear the tracks on March 5, 1910.

The winter of 1909–1910 provided conditions particularly conducive to avalanches; many slides experienced during January and February. On March 1, 96 people were killed further south into the Wellington avalanche in Washington State.

Three days later, on the evening of March 4, work crews were dispatched to clear a big slide which had fallen from Cheops Mountain, and buried the tracks just south of Shed 17. The crew consisted of a locomotive-driven rotary snowplow and 59 men. Time was critical as westbound CPR Train Number 97 was just entering the Rocky Mountains, bound for Vancouver.

Half an hour before midnight as the track was nearly clear, an unexpected avalanche swept down the opposite side of the track to the first fall. Around 400 metres of track were buried. The 91-ton locomotive and plow were hurled 15 metres to land upside-down. The wooden cars behind the locomotive were crushed and all but one of the workmen were instantly buried into the deep snow.

The only survivor was Billy Lachance, the locomotive fireman, who had been knocked over by the wind accompanying the fall but otherwise remained unscathed.

When news of the disaster reached nearby Revelstoke, a relief train consisting of 200 railmen, physicians and nurses was sent to the scene. They found no casualties to take care of; it became a mission to clear the tracks and recover the bodies beneath 10 metres of snow. Several of the dead were found standing upright, frozen in place. Among the dead were 32 Japanese workers.

The disaster was not the first to befall the pass; in all over 200 people had been killed by avalanches there since the line was opened 26 years before. The CPR finally accepted defeat and in 1913 began boring the five-mile long Connaught Tunnel through Mount Macdonald, at the time Canada’s longest tunnel, so bypassing the hazard of Rogers Pass. It was opened on December 13, 1916, and the railway abandoned the pass.

To read a wonderfully written article, with photos and a map, I suggest clicking your way to the Weather Doctor.

Stay warm and safe everyone!

 

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Gift Tag Reads: From: Nova Scotia To: Boston

I just learned about Nova Scotia giving Boston a big tree every Christmas. Absolutely amazing. Let me tell you about it.

Christmas Tree for Boston from Nova Scotia.

Christmas Gift for Boston from Nova Scotia.

Since 1971, Nova Scotia has given a Christmas tree to the people of the City of Boston in gratitude for their help and support after the Halifax Explosion in 1917. You can read my post on it at https://tkmorin.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/halifaxs-worst-explosions-tsunami-and-snow/

In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee had provided immediately after the disaster. That gift was revived in 1971 by the Lunenburg County Christmas Tree Producers Association, who began an annual donation of a large tree to promote Christmas tree exports as well as to acknowledge Boston’s support after the explosion. The gift was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government to continue the goodwill gesture as well as to promote trade and tourism.

The tree is Boston’s official Christmas tree and is lit on Boston Common throughout the holiday season. Knowing its symbolic importance to both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree. It must be an attractive balsam fir, white spruce or red spruce, 12 to 16 metres (40 to 50 ft) tall, healthy with good colour, medium to heavy density, uniform and symmetrical and easy to get access to.

This year, John and Ethel Ann MacPherson of Purlbrook, Antigonish Co., are donating the tree for Nova Scotia to give to the city of Boston.

The 13-metre (43-foot) white spruce is about 55 years old. It was cut during a festive public ceremony Monday, Nov. 17. Each year, the Nova Scotia tree for Boston stands proudly in Boston Common throughout the holidays. The annual event attracts more than 30,000 people each year and 300,000 more tune in to watch the live televised event on ABC.

The Nova Scotian government is always looking for the best tree to send to Boston. If you think you have what they want, here are the criteria and ways to get in touch: If you have or know of a white or red spruce or balsam fir with the following characteristics we want to hear from you.

Here’s some of the criteria we look for:

Twelve to fifteen meters (40-50 feet) in height
Healthy with good colour
Medium to heavy density
Uniform and symmetrical
Easy to access.

Please take a photo to the nearest Department of Natural Resources Office or send one to Tim Whynot at whynottw@gov.ns.ca Tim can also be reached at 424-3615.

To read more about this special Christmas gift and its origin, I highly recommend clicking your way to Nova Scotia Government information pages; you can follow the tree’s transport via twitter and facebook. A few media site that have covered it this year are the CTV News Atlantic, the CBC News and the Bostinno.

 

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Halifax’s Worst Explosions, Tsunami and Snow!

Prior tо thе invention of nuclear tесhnоlоgіеѕ, the wоrѕt man-made еxрlоѕіоn occurred іn Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 6, 1917, at roughly 8:45 am.   Dеѕtrоуіng thе еntіrе district of Richmond, thе еxрlоѕіоn wаѕ саuѕеd whеn a French cargo ship, SS Mont Blаnс, саrrуіng wartime wеароnѕ collided wіth a Nоrwеgіаn ѕhір, SS Imo.  

Map of Nova Scotia and area

Nova Scotia and area. Source: http://pcmha.com/page.php?page_id=5991Pictou County Minor Hockey Ass’n.

Ships carrying dangerous cargo were not allowed into the harbour before the war, but the risks posed by German submarines had resulted in a relaxing of regulations.

The collision caused a fіrе to brеаk out, which in turn іgnіtеd thе еxрlоѕіvеѕ оn bоаrd. A huge еxрlоѕіоn wаѕ саuѕеd, killing 2000 people and injuring 9000 from fіrеѕ, fаllіng dеbrіѕ, and collapsing buіldіngѕ.  The out-of-control fire aboard Mont-Blanc set off her highly explosive cargo. The ship was completely blown apart, and the remains of her hull were launched nearly 1,000 feet into the air.  The blast travelled at more than 1,000 metres per second. Temperatures of 5 000 °C and pressures of thousands of atmospheres accompanied the moment of detonation at the centre of the explosion.  White-hot shards of iron rained down upon Halifax and Dartmouth. The Mont-Blanc’s forward 90 mm gun landed about 5.6 kilometres north of the explosion site near Albro Lake in Dartmouth, while part of her anchor, weighing half a ton, landed 3.2 kilometres south at Armdale.

Halifax explosion blast cloud

View, of the column of smoke raised by the Halifax Explosion. One of only a few photographs of the blast itself. 6 Dec. 1917 / Halifax, N.S.; 6 December 1917 Source: Library and Archives Canada/PA-166585

The shock wave from the blast travelled through the earth at nearly 23 times the speed of sound and was felt as far away as Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.  An area over 400 acres was destroyed by the explosion, while the harbour floor was momentarily exposed by the volume of water that vaporized. A tsunami was formed by water surging in to fill the void, which rose up as high as 18 metres (60 feet) above the harbour’s high-water mark on the Halifax side.  Imo was carried onto the shore at Dartmouth by the tsunami.

The disaster had damaged buildings and shattered windows as far away as Sackville and Windsor Junction, about 16 kilometres  away. Buildings shook and items fell from shelves as far away as Truro and New Glasgow, both over 100 kilometres  away. The explosion was felt and heard in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, roughly 215 kilometres  north, and as far away as North Cape Breton, 360 kilometres  east.

Relief efforts were hampered the following day by a blizzard that blanketed Halifax with 16 inches  of heavy snow.

Robert Borden, Canada’s prime minister at the time, was in Charlottetown at the time of explosion and he also heard it along with many of his officials. He arrived and toured Halifax two days later to oversee and organize the recovery and rescue efforts.

Thе еxрlоѕіоn also wiped оut the еntіrе lосаl соmmunіtу оf Mі’kmаԛ First Nаtіоnѕ реорlе that had lіvеd in thе Tuft’ѕ Cоvе аrеа fоr generations.

The last body, a caretaker killed at the Exhibition Grounds, was not recovered until the summer of 1919.  An additional 9,000 were injured, 6,000 of them seriously; 1,630 homes were destroyed in the explosion and fires, with 12,000 more houses damaged.

Many of the wounds inflicted by the blast were permanently debilitating, with many people partially blinded by flying glass or by the flash of the explosion.  With the recently formed Canadian National Institute for the Blind, they managed to greatly improve the treatment of damaged eyes.

The death toll could have been worse if not for the self-sacrifice of an Intercolonial Railway dispatcher, Patrick Vincent (Vince) Coleman, operating at the Richmond Railway Yards about a quarter-mile away from Pier 6 where the explosion occurred. He and his co-worker, William Lovett, learned of the dangerous cargo aboard the burning Mont-Blanc from a sailor and began to flee. Coleman remembered, however, that an incoming passenger train from Saint John, New Brunswick was due to arrive at the rail yard within minutes. Coleman sent his Morse code message and left with Lovett. For unknown reasons, he returned to his post alone and continued to send out urgent telegraph messages to stop the train. Several variations of the message have been reported, among them this from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:

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

There are a number of books written about this event.  A few notable ones are:

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917,

Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917,

Dear Canada: No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917,

and Dear Canada: No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917.

 

 

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WHO’s Warning

SARS virus

The SARS Coronavirus, from: http://www.cdc.gov/sars/lab/images.html

SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, the epidemic, spread faster than expected at a time when immediate global news is taken for granted. Just remembering the warnings are enough to make me cringe. In Canada alone, there were 251 cases, and 44 of these died.  But thank goodness, on July 5, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the epidemic was no more. In total, SARS took about 775 people’s lives from 29 countries.

The epidemic of SARS was started in China in November 2002. The first reported case of SARS, a farmer, was treated in the Hospital.  The patient died soon after, and no definite diagnosis was made on his cause of death. Despite taking some action to control it, Chinese government officials did not inform the World Health Organization of the outbreak until February 2003.

It was actually good timing that allowed Canada to learn about the virus.  Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), is an electronic warning system that is part of the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak and Alert Response Network (GOARN), that picked up reports of a “flu outbreak” in China.  Thankfully, GPHIN had recently been upgraded to enable Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish translations.  Prior, the system was limited to English or French.  Still, an English report was not generated until 21 January 2003.

The CDC and a Canadian laboratory identified the SARS genome in April, 2003.

Masked Palm Civet

Masked Palm Civet

In late May 2003, studies from samples of wild animals sold as food in the local market in Guangdong, China, found the SARS virus could be isolated from palm civets, even though they didn’t show any symptoms. The preliminary conclusion was the SARS virus crossed the xenographic barrier from palm civet to humans, and more than 10,000 masked palm civets were killed. The virus was also later found in raccoon dogs, ferret badgers, and domestic cats. In 2005, two studies identified a number of SARS-like viruses in Chinese bats.

Health care providers were the heroes.  Even at risk to themselves, they cared for the sick around the clock.  The BBC wrote a wonderful tribute to these men and women.

 

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