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Remembering 1944 Bombay Explosion: What had happened that day

Updated on: 13 April,2024 11:07 PM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

Remembering 1944 Bombay Explosion here's a look at what had happened that day

Remembering 1944 Bombay Explosion: What had happened that day

Representational Pic/File

On April 14, 1944, Mumbai, then known as Bombay, had a devastating explosion that shook the harbor of the city, which was a prosperous port metropolis under British colonial administration. 

The incident happened at Victoria Dock, where the SS Fort Stikine, a freighter ship carrying a dangerous load of explosives, had docked.

The British-India Steam Navigation Company's SS Fort Stikine was carrying more than 1,400 tons of explosives, including a large quantity of high explosives, ammunition, and cotton bales. The ship had arrived Bombay on April 12, 1944, after departing from Birkenhead on February 24 and passing through Gibraltar, Port Said, and Karachi and was set to continue its route to England.

Contrary to popular opinion, the fire that caused the explosions did not result from enemy activity or sabotage. Instead, it was started by a tiny fire on board the SS Fort Stikine. The explosion happened immediately after a fire started in the ship's cargo hold, causing a series of destructive blasts to rip through the vessel and engulf the surrounding region in flames. The explosion was so powerful that it broke windows, wrecked buildings, and caused widespread devastation along the waterfront.

The explosion was felt throughout the city, with shockwaves damaging structures several kilometers distant. The resulting chaos and confusion impeded rescue operations, as emergency personnel struggled to cope with the magnitude of the calamity.

The toll of the catastrophe was startling, with estimates indicating that over 800 people were killed and many more injured in the explosion and aftermath. The victims included dockworkers, sailors, port residents, and spectators caught in the path of catastrophe.

Among the turmoil and devastation, stories of heroism and compassion emerged as regular folks and emergency responders rushed to assist those harmed by the explosions. Volunteers supplied survivors with medical care, shelter, and food, while rescue teams worked feverishly to locate stranded victims within the rubble.

The outpouring of support and solidarity proved the residents' fortitude and humanism in the face of catastrophe.

Beyond the immediate human toll, the 1944 Bombay explosions had far-reaching environmental impacts. The blasts released hazardous chemicals and pollutants into the air and water, endangering both humans and wildlife. The cleanup attempts encountered difficulties in controlling and reducing the environmental damage caused by the explosions, emphasizing the interdependence between industrial disasters and environmental degradation.

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