On July 25, 1917 at approximately 7:20 AM, an explosion occurred in the No. 12 Colliery in New Waterford, NS. The explosion occurred between the fifth and eighth levels, about 2000 feet into the mine. At the time of the explosion there were 270 men in the mine. The first dead bodies were located at about 2:00 PM that day. Fifteen hours after the disaster 62 bodies had been removed from the mine, and over 100 men had been reported injured. 90 men were still unaccounted for after the initial rescue efforts. 25 of these were rescued, leaving the final count of the dead at 65. The dead ranged from ages 14 to 65.
“Front page of The Halifax Herald, 26 July 1917, the day after 62 men were lost in the Dominion No. 12 disaster.”
Photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives. Used by permission.
The rescue work was handled primarily by firemen, the Miner’s union, and the company and volunteer miners. As all mines in the New Waterford district were closed, miners from those mines aided in the rescue work. The rescue work was difficult and risky due to the gasses within the mine, despite efforts to vent them. At least three men died after re-entering the mine in an attempt to save others. Despite these risks many miners showed their courage, entering the mine several times in order to assist in the rescue efforts.
The explosion had been quite violent, leaving many bodies severely damaged, including several which were decapitated. This would have made identifying the bodies challenging. The first funerals for the some of dead miners were held on Friday, July 27, 1917.
It is also of note that the media attention given to this disaster seems to be quite limited, despite its relatively high death count for such a disaster at the time. This seems to be due, in part, to the coverage of World War I. I hope local papers will have more information.