University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

Halifax Explosion Causes Eye Injuries and Blindness

American Red Cross Counts Hundreds of Eye Injuries and Dozens of Newly Blinded

Hundreds of survivors had eye injuries because they had been standing at windows watching the harbor when the SS Mont Blanc exploded and had been hit by flying glass. At first it was thought that as many as 500 survivors might have been permanently blinded, and early calls for donations and supplies often mentioned this number.

Within a few days, however, it became clear that many of those with eye injuries retained vision in one or both eyes. The American Red Cross Unit at Halifax counted the final total of eye injuries as 691 when it completed its work in early 1918. Among those with eye injuries were:

 

total

% of eye injuries (rounded)

Totally blind

41

6%

Both eyes doubtful

44

6%

One eye doubtful

136

20%

One eye blinded, other in good condition

141

20%

Eye injured but both now in good conditions

166

24%

Blind persons who died

8

1%

Source: C. C.Carstens, Report of the American Red Cross Unit at Halifax, National Records and Archives Administration of Nova Scotia, 891.1/08, quoted in Curse of the Narrows, Laura M.MacDonald (New York, Walker & Company, 2005), Note 234.

The Massachusetts–Halifax Relief Committee provided support and training for many of those blinded in the Halifax Explosion.

Buildings throughout the city, many of which were not in sight of the harbor, had their windows blown out

Buildings throughout the city, many of which were not in sight of the harbor, had their windows blown out.
Library and Archives Canada.

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