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The New York Times, April 19, 1906, p. 1:|
SAN FRANCISCO, April 18.—Earthquake and fire today have put nearly half of San Francisco in ruins. About 500 persons have been killed, a thousand injured, and the property loss will exceed $200,000,000.
OVER 500 DEAD, $200,000,000 LOST IN SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKENearly Half the City is in Ruins and 50,000 Are Homeless.
WATER SUPPLY FAILS AND DYNAMITE IS USED IN VAIN
Great Buildings Consumed Before Helpless Firemen—
Federal Troops and Militia Guard the City With Orders to Shoot Down Thieves—
Citizens Roused in Early Morning by Great Convulsion and Hundreds Caught by Falling Walls.
Fifty thousand people are homeless and destitute, and all day long streams of people have been fleeing from the stricken districts to places of safety.
It was 5:13 this morning when a terrific earthquake shock shook the whole city and the surrounding country. One shock apparently lasted two minutes, and there was almost immediate collapse of flimsy structures all over the city.
The water supply was cut off, and when fire started in various sections there was nothing to do but let the buildings burn. Telegraph and telephone communication was cut off for a time.
The Western Union was put completely out of business and the Postal Company was the only one that managed to get a wire out of the city. About ten o'clock even the Postal was forced to suspend.
Electric power was stopped and street cars did not run, railroads and ferryboats also ceased operations. The various fires raged all day and the fire department has been powerless to do anything except dynamite buildings threatened. All day long explosions have shaken the city and added to the terror of the inhabitants.
Following the first shock, there was another within five minutes, but not nearly so severe. Three hours later, there was another slight quake.
First Warning at 5:13 A.M.
Most of the people of San Franciso were asleep at 5:13 o'clock this morning when the terrible earthquake came without warning.
The motion of the disturbance was from east to west. At first the upheaval of the earth was gradual, but in a few seconds it was increased in intensity. Chimneys began to fall and buildings to crack, tottering on their foundations.
The people became panic-stricken, and rushed into the streets, most of them in their night attire. They were met by showers of falling bricks, cornices, and walls of buildings.
Many were crushed to death, while others were badly mangled. those who remained indoors generally escaped with their lives, though scores were hit by detached plaster, pictures, and articles thrown to the floor by the shock...
Steel Frame Buildings Stand.
The tall, steel-frame structures stood the strain better than brick buildings, few of them being badly damaged. The big eleven-story Mondadnock office building, in course of construction, adjoining the Palace Hotel, was an exception, however, its rear wall collapsing and many cracks being made across its front.
Some of the docks and freight sheds along the water front slid into the bay. Deep fissures opened in the filled-in ground near the shore, and the Union Ferry Station was badly injured. Its high tower still stands, but will have to be torn down.
A portion of the new City Hall, which cost more than $7,000,000, collapsed, the roof sliding into the courtyard, and the smaller towers tumbling down. The great dome was moved, but did not fall.
The new Post Office, one of the finest in the United States, was badly shattered.
The Valencia Hotel, a four-story wooden building, sand into the basement, a pile of splintered timbers, under which were pinned many dead and dying occupants of the house. The basement was full of water, and some of the helpless victims were drowned.
Fires Start in Many Places.
Scarcely had the earth ceased to shake when fires started simultaneously in many places. The Fire Department promptly responded to the first calls for aid, but it was found that the water mains had been rendered useless by the underground movement.
Fanned by a light breeze, the flames quickly spread, and soon many blocks were seen to be doomed. Then dynamite was resorted to, and the sound of frequent explosions added to the terror of the people. These efforts to stay the progress of the fire, however, proved futile.
The south side of Market Street, from Ninth Street to the bay, was soon ablaze, the fire covering a belt two blocks wide. On this, the main thoroughfare, were many of the finest edifices in the city, including the Grant, Parrott, Flood, Call, Examiner, and Monadnock Buildings, and the Palace and Grand Hotels.
At the same time commercial establishments and banks north of Market Street were burning. The burning district in this section of the city extended from Sansome Street to the water front, and from Market Street to Broadway.
Fires also started in the Mission, and the entire city seemed to be in flames.
Long Detours Around Fires.
The flames, fanned by the rising breeze, swept down the main streets until within a few hundred feet of the ferry station, the high tower of which stood at a dangerous angle.
The big wholesale grocery establishment of Weelman, Peck & Co. was on fire from cellar to roof, and the heat was so oppressive that passengers from the ferry boats were obliged to keep close to the water's edge, in order to get past the burning structure.
It was impossible to reach the centre of the city from the bay without skirting the shore for a long distance so as to get entirely around the burning district.
About 8 o'clock the Southern Pacific officials refused to allow any more passengers from trans-bay points to land, and sent back those already on the boats. The ferry and train service of the Key Route was entirely abandoned owing to damage to the power house by the earthquake at Emeryville.
Lack of Dynamite Felt.
There was little dynamite available in the city. The Southern Pacific soon brought some in. At 9 o'clock Mayor Schmitz sent a tug to Pinola for several cases of explosives. He sent also a telegram to Mayor Mott of Oakland. At 10:30 he received this reply to his Oakland message:
"Three engines and hose companies leave here immediately. Will forward dynamite as soon as obtainable."
The town of San Rafael, despite its own needs, sent fire fighting apparatus here.
Mayor Schmitz gave orders to use dynamite whenever necessary, and the firemen and United States soldiers, who assisted them, blew down building after building. Their efforts, however, were useless, so far as checking the headway of the flames was concerned.
The shortage of water was due to the breaking of mains of the Spring Valley Water Company at San Mateo. The water needed so badly in the city ran in a flood over San Mateo.
Burning of the Opera House.
The fire swept down the streets so rapidly that it was practically impossible to save anything in its way. It reached the Grand Opera House on Mission Street, and in a moment had burned through the roof. The Metropolitan Opera Company from New York had just opened its season there, and all the expensive scenery and costumes were soon reduced to ashes.
From the opera house the fire leaped from building to building, leveling them almost to the ground in quick succession.
The Call editorial and mechanical departments, in the handsome building at Third and Market Streets, were totally destroyed in a few minutes, and the flames leaped across Stevenson Street toward the fine fifteen-story stone and iron building of Claus Spreckels, which, with its lofty dome, was the most notable structure in San Francisco. Two small wooden buildings furnished fuel to ignite the splendid pile.
Thousands of people watched the hungry tongues of flames licking the stone walls. At first no impression was made, but suddenly there was a cracking of glass and an entrance was effected. The inner furnishings of the fourth floor were the first to go. Then, as if by magic, smoke issued from the top of the dome.
This was followed by a most spectacular illumination. The round windows of the dome shone like so many full moons; they burst and gave vent to long, waving streamers of flames...
The tall and slender structure which had withstood the forces of the earth appeared doomed to fall a prey to fire. After a while, however, the light grew less intense, and the flames, finding nothing to consume, gradually went out, leaving the building standing, but completely gutted.
At California and Sansome Streets stood the Mutual Life Building, a modern structure of architectural beauty, to which the flames were soon communicated. An attempt was made to save it, but the fire was irrepressible. The flames gained, and in a few moments the big building was beyond hope. The Anglo California Bank was swept by the flames and came down in a rush...
An unusually loud report showed that a gas house at Eighteenth and Market Streets had blown up. The fire caused by the explosion quickly communicated in various directions. As the gas house exploded a feeling of despair overcame the men who were performing the rescue work...
Scare at Palace Hotel.
The Palace Hotel, the rear of which was constantly threatened, was the scene of great excitement, the guests leaving in haste, many with only the clothing they wore. Finding that the hotel was surrounded on all sides by streets, and was likely to remain immune, many returned and made arrangements for the removal of their belongings, though little could be taken away owing to the utter absence of transportation facilities.
The Parrott Building, in which was located the chambers of the State Supreme Court, the lower floors being devoted to an immense department store, was ruined, though its massive walls were not all destroyed.
A little further down Market Street, the Academy of Sciences and the Jennie Flood Building and the History Building kindled and burned like so much tinder. Sparks carried across the wide street, ignited the Phelan Building, and the army headquarters of California, Gen. Funston commanding, were burned.
Still nearing the bay, the waters of which did the fireman good service along the docks, the fire took the Rialto Building, a handsome skyscraper, and converted scores of solid business blocks into smoldering piles of bricks.
Thousands Watch the Flames.
Banks and commercial houses, supposed to be fireproof, though not of modern build, burned quickly, and the roar of the flames could be heard even on the hills, which were out of the danger zone. Here many thousands of people congregated and viewed the awful scene.
Great sheets of flame rose high in the heavens, or rushed down some narrow street, joining midway between the sidewalks, making a horizontal chimney of the former passageway.
The dense smoke that arose from the entire business district spread out like an immense funnel and could have been seen miles out at sea. Occasionally, as some drug house or place stored with chemicals was reached, most fantastic effects were produced by the centred flames and smoke which rolled out against the darker background.
One of the first orders issued by Chief of Police Dinan this morning was for the closing of every saloon in the city. This step was taken to prevent drink-crazed men from rioting in the streets.
Mayor Schmitz sent out word to the bakeries and milk stations throughout the city that their food supplies must be harbored for the homeless. Provisions were made to place tents in every park in the city, and those who have lost all will be given food and shelter.
Early in the morning the prisoners confined in the city prison on the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice were transferred in irons to the basement of the structure. Later they were removed to the Broadway Jail, and if necessity arises they will be taken to a branch county jail on the Mission Road.
The Mayor also established a base of rescue, and soon had forces out where they could accomplish most. Many men were sent down to the lodging house district near Market Street. There it was found that many frame buildings, packed with people, had collapsed, burying their occupants in the ruins.
The rescuers jumped into the wrecks and pulled out the dead, the dying, and the injured. Practically every physician in the city immediately volunteered his assistance, and soon there was a well-equipped medical corps organized which began ministering to the injured.
For hours bodies were taken out in the lodging house district, and hundreds of men volunteered to go into the ruins to get more.
The pretentious City Hall, bounded by Larkin and McAllister Streets and City Hall Avenue, was badly shattered by the earthquake, and the ruins later were burned. It took twenty years to build the City Hall, the pride of the coast. When the first shock was felt the building rocked and swayed until it cracked. Part of the interior fell and the ruins caught fire. An alarm was turned in and the firemen responded. Chief Sullivan, awakened by the shock at his quarters in a firehouse, hastened to put on his clothes. As he reached for them the tower of the California Hotel dropped upon his building and crushing through the roof killed him.
The firemen arrived at City Hall, but were helpless. They hitched their hose to the fire plugs, but there was no water supply.
Every possible precaution has been taken to guard property. Immediately after the destructive shocks the police turned out on guard, and the Governor and Gen. Funston, commanding the Pacific Division of the United States Army, were asked to send troops.
A thousand men from the Presidio, sent by Gen. Funston, arrived downtown at 9 o'clock to patrol the streets. The Thirteenth Infantry, 1,000 strong, arrived from Angel Island a little later and went on patrol duty at once.
The soldiers were ordered to shoot down vandals robbing the dead and to guard with their lives the millions of dollars worth of property placed in the streets to escape the flames.
The First California Artillery, 200 strong, two companies, was detailed to patrol duty on Ellis Street. Two more companies patrolled Broadway in the Italian section. The Ellis Street contingent of guardsmen were under the command of Capt. G.A. Grattan. Capt. William A. Miller commanded the forces on Broadway.
The city is under martial law, and all the downtown streets are patrolled by cavalry and infantry. Details of troops are also guarding the banks.
Early this morning Mayor Schmitz, who established his office at Police Headquarters, named the following citizens as a Committee of Safety:
EARTHQUAKE'S AUTOGRAPH AS IT WROTE IT 3,000 MILES AWAY.
Tracing made by the Seismograph Needle in the Office of State Geologist John M. Clarke,
State Museum, Albany, Showing How the Earthquake Traveled Across Continent in 19 Minutes.
The drawing represents the vibration of the north and south pendulum of the seismograph during the time of the most intense activity, beginning in San Francisco at 5:13 A.M., in Albany at 8:32. In Albany the violent agitation ended at 8:43 A.M. The straight lines at the side of the wavy line indicate the normal condition of the record as the recording drum revolves, and this serves to show the contrast between the ordinary progress of the record and that during a disturbance...
The same violent disturbance was noticable on the seismograph at Washington between 8:32 and 8:35 A.M., thus verifying the time of transit across the continent: 19 minutes.
• Crystal Liu Yifei
• San Diego
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