What happened in the Halifax, Nova Scotia explosion of 1917?

On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia causing one of the worst explosions in history. The Mont Blanc, which contained a cargo of explosives heading to France for use in World War I, exploded with such force that the 3,121 tons of her iron hull vaporized and shot up more than 2,000 feet. This was followed by a tsunami of sea water that swept over the city. Twelve-thousand buildings within a 16-mile radius were damaged. Almost 2,000 Haligonians were killed by the blast, debris, fires, collapsed buildings, and the tsunami, and possibly 9,000 injured. As if that wasn’t enough, within twenty-four hours, a major blizzard hit Halifax, hampering rescue and relief efforts.

The town before the explosion

Who was at fault?

Investigations determined that both ships were equally responsible for the explosion. Therefore, if this happened today, both ships’ insurance companies would split any payouts. This is called a “third-party” claim since it’s being paid by a third party rather than by the claimant or their own insurance company.

The causes of loss

There are several causes of loss in this case and differentiating them is important to who pays for what. The explosion, which caused fire and debris damage, water from the tsunami, and damage caused by the blizzard. Damage resulting directly from the explosion, including the tsunami, would be covered by the third-party insurance companies. If the tsunami had been naturally occurring, it would not be covered since water traveling across the ground and “wave wash” are not covered by a regular homeowner’s policy.

Any claim resulting from the blizzard that came in the days after the explosion would be covered by the individual homeowners’ policies.

How could a Public Adjuster help in this case?

Third party claims can be hard to collect on in a timely and satisfactory manner. It’s often much easier to file a first-party claim with your own insurance company who will then subrogate against the third party after their own insured has been satisfied. A public adjuster would represent the claimants in this case. A public adjuster can also help with placing a family in an alternative residence for the duration of the claim process and the reconstruction, and a public adjuster can help with remediation vendors. Having a public adjuster manage the claim allows the survivors to move forward with their lives and deal with the trauma of the explosion and its aftermath.

Interesting fact

The Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee sent a delegation to Halifax shortly after the explosion. In appreciation, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in 1917. In 1971, the gift was revived and has been continued every year since.

Christmas Tree In Boston

For more information 

This is a great little video illustrating the lead-up to the disaster. https://youtu.be/OSuX9RvLq54

A great book about the disaster and its aftermath is Curse of the Narrows: the Halifax Disaster of 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone at 508-588-4243.