Accessibility links

Breaking News

San Francisco to Mark Centennial of 1906 Earthquake

The city of San Francisco is preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to strike the United States. VOA's Chris Mitchell has more on the devastating 1906 earthquake.

To the outsider, there is nothing to suggest that, 100 years ago, half of San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake and the fires that followed. The quake killed at least 3,000 people and left more than 200,000 homeless, living in tents and whatever shelter they could improvise.

In time, the survivors rebuilt, and San Francisco bounced back.

As the city prepares to mark the April 18 centennial of the earthquake, area museums like this one in Oakland are putting the finishing touches on displays commemorating the disaster.

While some exhibits focus on the earthquake and the recovery, others find art in the chaos. The arch of a ruined mansion frames the burned remains of city hall. Today, that arch is a memorial of the quake in Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco has several events planned to commemorate the quake, including one for about one dozen survivors of the disaster. They will gather at a landmark fountain that served as a place where people met to await news on their families and homes after the quake and subsequent fires. There, they will observe a moment of silence at 5:12 am, the exact moment the quake struck.

After laying a wreath to honor those who perished, they will visit one of the few hotels to survive the disaster. The Saint Francis hotel plans to serve the same meal it served on the morning of the earthquake 100 years ago -- pancakes and rhubarb stew.

Meanwhile, as the commemorations near, the U.S. Geological Survey released 3D animation of the 1906 quake. Using high-tech animation, scientists showed how the quake created a rupture that traveled 300 kilometers in less than 90 seconds. USGS geophysicist

Mary Lou Zobak says the computer simulation identifies areas of the city hit particularly hard by the quake.

"We hope by making this information available easily the public can become better aware and they need to be asking questions and finding out more about where they live, where they work, that sort of thing." she said.

The San Francisco earthquake registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, making it a major earthquake. Centered about two miles off the city's coast, the quake and its shock waves leveled thousands of buildings, causing what would amount to tens of billions of U.S. dollars in damage today.