1949 Annual Report - Noronic Disaster Cover

Date / Period
Object Type
Books, Guides and Manuals
Canadian Red Cross
Disaster Management

On September 17, 1949, the passenger steamship S.S. Noronic was destroyed by fire in Toronto harbour, taking an estimated 125 passengers down with it and putting hundreds of others in danger. This tragedy shocked Canadians, but called forth the best of the Canadian Red Cross, as Toronto branch volunteers and staff responded with compassion and care to meet the needs of the victims. This artifact is the cover of the 1949 Toronto branch annual report, which contains a short report of the disaster and subsequent relief efforts.

The S.S. Noronic could carry 600 people, boasted amenities such as an orchestra, ballroom, library, and beauty salon, and carried passengers on summertime pleasure cruises between ports along the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system. It was docked at Toronto, its passengers (largely American) asleep in their berths, when a linen closet caught fire in the early morning of September 17. The ship swiftly erupted into a full-scale conflagration, trapping more than 100 terrified passengers inside while those who were able jumped out of portholes or off decks into the lake.

Effort put forward by volunteers and staff “exceeded far and beyond the call of duty.”

Ironically, the Disaster Services committee of the Toronto branch Red Cross had planned a mock disaster exercise for September 17. Instead, virtually all volunteers and staff of the branch worked in tandem with American Red Cross disaster relief experts and a wide range of Toronto citizens who spontaneously offered assistance, to provide food, shelter, clothing, first aid, and transportation for the victims. The branch’s integral role in the relief effort raised the profile of Red Cross Disaster Services in Toronto and established new and closer relationships between the society and other emergency measures organizations.

In a letter printed in the Toronto branch report, Toronto Mayor H.E. McCallum offered his thanks to the branch. He believed that the humanitarian effort put forward by volunteers and staff “exceeded far and beyond the call of duty.” He praised the “material aid, comfort, and counsel rendered so effectively and sympathetically to the grief-stricken victims and their sorrowing relatives … [under] … difficult and harrowing circumstances.”

The Noronic fire still ranks among Toronto’s deadliest disasters of all time. It was one of five major domestic disasters and at least 470 smaller ones to which the Canadian Red Cross responded in 1949.

1949 Annual Report - Noronic Disaster Cover

Annual report
The Canadian Red Cross Society Toronto Branch 35th Annual Report

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