If there’s one thing that history can teach us about preparedness, it’s that disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and to anybody.
Via History Channel:
At 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing hundreds of people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.
San Francisco’s brick buildings and wooden Victorian structures were especially devastated. Fires immediately broke out and–because broken water mains prevented firefighters from stopping them–firestorms soon developed citywide. At 7 a.m., U.S. Army troops from Fort Mason reported to the Hall of Justice, and San Francisco Mayor E.E. Schmitz called for the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and authorized soldiers to shoot-to-kill anyone found looting. Meanwhile, in the face of significant aftershocks, firefighters and U.S. troops fought desperately to control the ongoing fire, often dynamiting whole city blocks to create firewalls. On April 20, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated from the foot of Van Ness Avenue onto the USS Chicago.
By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district.
Many have not heeded the warnings of the 1906 quake. How soon we forget.
Investigative reports and documentaries on the 1906 quake and the subsequent rebuilding of San Francisco’s infrastructure suggest that at least half of the city has been built on the rubble of the previous earthquake, so perhaps millions of San Fran residents are living on land that is likely to liquefy in the next big quake which will undoubtedly strike the city.While San Francisco employs some of the most advanced building designs in the world, even if a building can withstand a 9.0 Richter earthquake, if the land below it gives way, there’s nothing that can be done.
As we’ve seen recently with Fukushima, even the best laid plans may not be enough when nature’s fury takes hold. Like the 1906 San Francisco event, the majority of the damage at Fukushima, the 2004 South East Asian Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, came after the initial ground shake, costing billions of dollars in damage, and more importantly, tens of thousands of lives.
Governments and individuals can only prepare so much. Sometimes, it comes down to luck and the faith that our higher power is there to protect us.
Video Documentary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake: