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Disasters of Western Canada: Courage Amidst the Chaos    by Tony Hollihan order for
Disasters of Western Canada
by Tony Hollihan
Order:  USA  Can
Lone Pine, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

In Disasters of Western Canada, author and historian Tony Hollihan presents an in depth and often poignant look at the many natural or man-made disasters that have struck western Canada.

He begins with the catastrophic Okanogan Mountain Park Fire of 2003 that experts have rated as 'one of the most intense fires possible'. This raging monster incinerated over 25,000 hectares of British Columbia forest and razed hundreds of homes in the suburbs of Kelowna. In another account, Hollihan returns to the early morning of April 29, 1903 moments before millions of tons of limestone broke free from towering Turtle Mountain, burying the thriving mining town of Frank and claiming 76 souls, including entire families. Eleven years later, another mining accident in Hillcrest Alberta claimed 189 men in nearby Hillcrest - this remains the worst coal-mining disaster in Canadian history.

Manitoba's meandering Red River has flooded its banks often, but never quite as disastrously as in 1950, when over 100,000 Winnipeg residents were forced to flee the river's relentlessly rising waters. Western Canadian winters are legendary and often life threatening. One of the most dangerous and unforgiving forces of nature is the avalanche and the Rockies have seen their fair share. Hollihan recounts two of the most devastating slides: the Chilkoot Pass avalanche of 1898 buried 63 prospectors who were trying to reach the rich gold fields of the Yukon. And the Rogers Pass leaves a deadly legacy; between 1883 and 1911 more than 200 CPR railway workers lost their lives due to avalanches. Today, the CPR no longer uses the Rogers Pass.

Hollihan presents many more stories in Disasters of Western Canada, an interesting, factual and often sobering look at an unforgettable part of Canadian history. It also illustrates the heroic, resilient and generous nature of family, friends, and often total strangers when faced with overwhelming odds.

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