San Francisco 1906 Earthquake: Impact And Reconstruction

2032 words - 8 pages

At 5:12 a.m. on April 18th, 1906, the California city of San Francisco was awoken by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Chaos erupted with the earthquake leading to fire break outs throughout San Francisco (Cameron and Gordon. Pgs 69-73).The earthquake and the resulting fires caused destruction to majority of the city with buildings crumbling and igniting into flames. Many people died along with thousands and thousands of people being left homeless. This devastating earthquake left the city and United States in a financial crisis. Although the 1906 earthquake was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, the city of San Francisco was able to overcome these substantial physical, social and economic impacts it had.
The physical damage done to San Francisco due to the earthquake was extensive. The earthquake caused gas lines to rupture and chimneys to collapse which resulted in perhaps the greatest devastation from the earthquake, the fires. About fifty fires broke out around the city that in combination with the earthquake caused the destruction of about 28,000 buildings (The Great San Francisco Earthquake: One of America's Worst Urban Disasters. 2005). The fires continued to burn for four days because the water mains had burst; therefore, the hydrants had no water. Desperation sunk in and the fire department and military, having no water to stop the fires, used dynamite to create firebreaks. This ultimately backfired and led to the fires expanding. When the fires stopped, the city was left in ruins with 80% of it being destroyed (Dean. Pg 506).
With so much of the city destroyed, San Franciscans were left to deal with the social consequences. Around 200,000 people were left homeless. Many of those people were immigrants due to one third of the San Francisco population being immigrants and one third being children of immigrants. Those who were homeless sought refuge in the city parks like Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. (The Great San Francisco Earthquake: One of America's Worst Urban Disasters. 2005). They would have to cook in the streets if possible or wait in lines for food being handed out. A large portion of the homeless migrated to other parts of the bay area to start over or live with other family members because their once prospering city was destroyed. Due to the chaos, the houses and businesses that remained were often abandoned for safety reasons which opened the door for looting. It was ordered for looters to be shot on sight; although, there wasn’t a high death rate due to looting. Unfortunately, there was a high death rate in the thousands due to the earthquake and resulting fires. Thousands of people lost everything including their belongings, homes, businesses, loved ones, and schools. Many people felt as their lives were destroyed along with the city of San Francisco (Dean, pg 508-509).
The population group, perhaps, most impacted by the earthquake was the Chinese population in Chinatown. Chinatown was destroyed...

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