On April 18, 1906 at 5.12 am, the city of San Francisco, California was awakened by a huge jolt. An earthquake that measured somewhere between 7.8 - 8.3 in magnitude, shook the ground for a full minute, resulting in one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.
The epicenter of the quake was two miles north of San Francisco, on the San Andreas fault-line and affected areas both north and south for about 296 miles. It was so severe that it was felt as far
north as Oregon, as far south as Los Angeles and as far inland as Nevada.
However, it was San Francisco that was affected the most. By the early 1900's the city had become a cultural and financial center with one of the highest populations on the West Coast. The aftermath of the full minute of shaking resulted in several buildings collapsing. While this was bad enough, what followed was even worse. The earthquake ruptured both gas and water pipes causing fires - but no water for the firemen to fight them with. This resulted in a lot of the city being burnt down, especially the wooden structures.
The fires lasted for five days and destroyed over 500 city blocks. More then 3,000 people lost their lives and over 250,000 were left homeless.
San Francisco still commemorates this event annually with firefighters, police and volunteers AND - the sole remaining survivor of the earthquake! 105 year-old Herbert Hamrol. This year, he arrived in a comfortable vintage car for the ceremonies and told stories about the events of that fateful morning. Herbert, who was three when the quake struck, remembers his mother carrying him out to safety from their crumbling flat. The family then left the bay area to stay with relatives in Chicago. While they came back once things settled, his parents rarely spoke of the earthquake again as it made them really sad.
San Francisco, which was re-built rapidly, now has some of the toughest building codes in the world and is much better prepared, incase of another severe earthquake.