Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sirens Mark Great Quake of 1906

Sirens Mark Great Quake of 1906. One hundred years ago today, one of the worst natural disasters in American history occurred. A large earthquake, estimated at 7.8 on the Richter Scale, hit the city.

The death toll is hard to know. CNN noted, "Historians say city officials, eager to bring people and commerce back to the city, radically underestimated the death toll. Researchers are still trying to settle on a number, but reliable estimates put the loss above 3,000, and possibly as high as 6,000."

The quake hit early in the morning when most people were still in bed. CNN wrote, "The foreshock sent people scrambling, and the main shock arrived with such fury that it flattened crowded rooming houses. The epicenter was a few miles offshore of the city, but it was felt as far away as Oregon and Nevada. In 28 seconds, it brought down the City Hall."

What followed was equally as devastating. Fires broke out in many parts of the city. Some fires were started by natural gas lines breaking. Other fires were the result of arson. The fires lasted for 4 days and nights.

Looting was also rampant. Mayor Eugene Schmitz ordered that looters be shot on site. Reportedly, some 500 people were shot.

It took San Francisco years to recover. However, it was rebuilt quickly enough that it was able to host the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. The city also adopted the symbol of the Phoenix for the city flag and seal to represent a rise from the ashes.

More information on this historical disaster can be found at the 1906 Earthquake Centennial Alliance official site


Jennie W said...

I know that the San Francisco earthquake had a much higher death toll (becuase there were more people to be affected), but another great American earthquake was in Alaska in 1964. It was the second largest ever recorded (9.2 on the Richter Scale) and completely wiped out towns. The death toll was also reduced because it was a holiday (Good Friday) and there were no kids in the schools. Today when you drive into Valdez, AK you go by the old town site - it is now a mud flat.

For more information and pictures:

Miland said...

Thanks Jennie. I remember reading that Alaska is the most earthquake prone part of North America. If more people lived there, I am sure we would here about it more.