An artist painting a picture of the ruins of the San Francisco earthquake, 1906

One of the most catastrophic disasters ever recorded in American history was recorded in San Francisco in 1906, when an earthquake struck the California city on the morning of April 18. Modern analysis estimates it to have a magnitude of 8.25 on the Richter scale. The events are remembered as one of the worst and deadliest natural disasters in United States history.

The biggest devastation was caused by earthquake ignited fire. The earthquake cracked gas mains, even as it allowed ignition accidents in a variety of ways, from hundreds of open flames used for lighting and cooking. Wooden buildings caught fire easily, and earthquake-damaged waterways were useless for extinguishing fires.

The fire ravaged the city for three days before burning itself down. The maelstrom destroyed 490 city blocks, a total of 25,000 buildings and left over 250,000 homeless.

Only 478 deaths were reported at the time, a figure coined by government officials who felt that reporting the actual death would hurt real estate prices and the city's rebuilding efforts.

This figure has been revised to today's conservative estimate of over 3,000 people. Property estimated at $400,000,000 was destroyed. The buildings, in some cases still with people, were in motion, while military rule was enforced about the streets, with robbers shot on sight. Here's a chilling photo collection: The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in Pictures, 1906.

Despite the utter devastation, San Francisco quickly recovered from the earthquake, and the destruction actually allowed planners to build a new and better city.

Reconstruction funds were immediately tied up by the fact that nearly all major banks were the sites of flames, waiting seven to ten days long before their fire-proof vaults were sufficiently cooled to open safely. was needed.

The destruction of the urban center in San Francisco also spurred the growth of new cities around San Francisco Bay, leading to a population boom from other parts of the United States and abroad.

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