San Francisco Earthquake


The most disastrous earthquake in US history hit San Francisco on April 18. The earthquake, which caused its worst damage in the fire that raged in its aftermath, killed over 1,000 people. About 250,000 people were made homeless, and property damage was said to be $10.6 Billion.


On Wednesday, April 18th, 1906 at 5:12 AM an earthquake with an estimated rating of 7.9 on the Richter scale struck San Francisco. At the time there was no Richter scale, so the 7.9 number is just an estimate. There was foreshock 20 seconds before; the main shock lasted 42 seconds. The initial shock destroyed thousands of buildings. It was the fires that broke out afterward that destroyed even more of the city. The fires were caused primarily by ruptured gas lines.

The initial quake had killed the San Francisco fire chief eliminating the person most capable of leading the fight against the fires. The army immediately sent troops from nearby bases to help. They patrolled the streets to stop looting and assisted in the rescue efforts. Four thousand army troops were involved in the rescue. Altogether 25,000 building located on over 490 city blocks were destroyed. Initial reports claimed that 375 people were killed in the earthquake, but later estimates put the number of killed between 700-3000

It is estimated that property losses were estimated at $400 million in 1906 dollars, equivalent to $10.9 billion in 2017. The city rebuilt quickly, and by 2015 the city had rebuilt. San Francisco was not the only place hit by the earthquake, the other cites in the area such as San Jose and Santa Rosa were destroyed.