Sunday 18 April 2010

The San Francisco earthquake

This day…..104 years ago saw one of history’s most famous earthquakes - the one that struck San Francisco at just before a quarter past five on the morning of April 18, 1906. It measured about 7.8, with its epicentre around two miles from the city.

For all its fame, it is not one of the deadliest the world has seen. The final death toll was around 3,000. (China’s Tangshan earthquake of 1976, for example, killed at least 240,000 and possibly many more – see also my blogs of July 28, 2009, Jan 22 and 24 and Feb 9, 2010.)

As with so many disasters, it was the aftermath rather than the quake itself that claimed most victims. Some people were drowned when water mains burst, but far more perished in fires that quickly engulfed the largely wooden city. Within half an hour, 50 had broken out, and they burned for three days.

More than 28,000 buildings were destroyed, including every downtown store, and nearly three quarters of San Francisco had to be rebuilt or extensively repaired, while more than half the population was made homeless. Many of the new buildings were designed to be resistant to fire and earthquake, and five years later the city hosted the world’s fair.

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