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Great San Franscisco Earthquake of 1906 – Dale’s Daily Data

Damaged buildings with rising smoke in the background following the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 (Getty Images)

With what happened last month in Japan we now have the modern perspective of what a massive earthquake can do.  But this is one that happened more than one hundred years ago.  It was while most of the city was still asleep.  At close to 8.0 on the Richter scale, the great San Francisco earthquake shook the city awake at 5:13 a.m. and immediately killed hundreds of people as it toppled homes and buildings.  Aftershocks caused more destruction while fires broke out all over the city.  And because broken water mains prevented firefighters from battling the fires some areas of the city became infernos.

U.S. Army troops were called in to help fight the fires and enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.  Soldiers were given the authority to shoot-to-kill anybody they found looting.  With the fires out of control, firefighters dynamited some whole city blocks to create firewalls.  Three days later, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated onto a navy warship.

It took six days to get most of the fires put out, but then began the job of looking for the victims, if any were still alive.  An estimated 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and its aftermath.  In the end, almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district.

It happened on this date, April 18th, 1906.

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