Collision LogoThe Rescue
• Responding to the Chaos

Disaster is unpredictable, its effects are traumatic. For those immediately effected, the rationalization of what had occurred took a backseat to an urgent sense that something had to be done. The explosion of the Mont Blanc threw the Richmond district into chaos, and the City into disarray. The immediate rescue efforts were spontaneous and uncoordinated. Those who could, picked themselves up, and helped those who could not, those who were cut, bleeding, broken, blinded, and lost. Their aim was to get the wounded to medical help, to hospital. The effort was soon supported by police, firemen, and soldiers. Every kind of usable transportation was put into service moving the injured. In some instances cars were commandeered to be used as ambulances. Rescuers fought fires, freed trapped victims, and applied first aid.

Shortly after nine the night express arrived in Richmond from Saint John, New Brunswick. The train was about ten minutes late. When the explosion occurred the No.10 was about two miles out. The concussion blew out all of the windows, fortunately no one was injured. The engineer approached the city with caution, stopping the train where the rail was blocked with debris. The destruction and the injuries were apparent. With the aid of the passengers the conductor filled the train with wounded and headed back to Rockingham.

It was during the initial exodus, about ten o'clock, that panic arose about a second explosion. Wellington Barracks housed an ammunitions magazine which had a wall blown open, where on the ground next to it burned live coals. Although the potential explosion was averted quickly by C.A. McLennan, the smoke and steam from his action raised an alarm. In short order uniformed men were spreading word that all persons move to the nearest open ground. The outcome was a mass evacuation. Crowds of walking wounded, still shocked and confused, streamed toward Citadel Hill, Point Pleasant Park, and other open fields in the city. Some who had vehicles left for refuge in the country, passing walking injured on the way. Those who could not walk or be carried, were left behind, some trapped in burning buildings, where undaunted rescuers still attempted to free them.

As a final precaution the magazine was flooded, the ammunition removed and dumped in the harbour by a group of volunteers from the 72nd Battalion of Ottawa. With the fear of a second explosion alleviated, survivors were permitted to seek medical help or otherwise find shelter. Many homes were demolished, many were made uninhabitable - gaping holes in the walls and missing window glass. Many were burning, fires set by toppled stoves.

Recognizing the dire situation George Grant, supervisor of Rockhead Prision emptied cells and offered to accommodate some of the homeless. About 70 took shelter there.

"Filthy with tar, wearing bloodstained remnants of clothing, and numb with shock, they were a pitiful looking collection." (Kitz, 1989)

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