Udayavni Special

The Beirut-like explosion that shook Bombay in 1944


Team Udayavani, Aug 9, 2020, 9:38 AM IST

Earlier this week, the Beirut explosion which killed at least 150 people and injured around 5,000 shook the world.

Around 76 years ago, a similar incident took place in Mumbai on 14 April 1944, which killed over 700 people, injured 2,500 others. Over 66 firefighters in the city too lost their lives trying to put out the deadly fire. It is known as the S.S Fort Stikine explosion

What happened?

According to History, The Fort Stikine was a Canadian-built steamship weighing 8,000 tons. It left Birkenhead, England, on February 24 and stopped in Karachi, Pakistan, before docking at Bombay. The ship was carrying hundreds of cotton bales, gold bullion and, most notably, 300 tons of trinitrotoluene, better known as TNT or dynamite. The cotton was stored one level below the dynamite, despite the fact that cotton bales were prone to combustion.

As there was smoke coming from the cotton bales, firefighters were sent to douse the fire. Around 60 firefighters tried to put out fire with hoses till afternoon. But, the TNT was still not unloaded during the firefighting efforts

At around 4.00 pm, TNT was ignited resulting explosion that rocked the bay area. The force of the blast actually lifted a nearby 4,000-ton ship from the bay onto land. Thirteen ships around the Stikine were destroyed, as were hundreds of homes in the vicinity of the docks.

Today, there is a memorial outside  the Mumbai Fire Brigade headquarters and every year, April 14 is observed as Fire Brigade Day in the city

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