On this day April 18, 1906

A major earthquake and resulting fires devastated San Francisco, killing at least 3,000 people and leaving more than half of the city’s population homeless.

Earthquake and fire damage from Stanford Mansion site

Earthquake and fire damage from Stanford Mansion site

The earthquake struck San Francisco, CA and the coast of Northern California at 5:12 A.M. on Wednesday, April 18, 1906. The most widely-accepted estimate for the magnitude of the earthquake is a moment magnitude (Mw) of 7.8; however, other values have been proposed, from 7.7 to as high as 8.25.

The main shock epicenter occurred offshore about 2 miles (3 km) from the city, near Mussel Rock. It ruptured along the San Andreas Fault both northward and southward for a total of 296 miles (477 km).

Shaking was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles, and inland as far as central Nevada. The earthquake and resulting fire is remembered as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.

The death toll from the earthquake and resulting fire, estimated to be above 3,000, is the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California’s history. The economic impact has been compared with the more recent Hurricane Katrina.

On April 18, in response to riots among evacuees and looting, Mayor Schmitz issued and ordered posted a proclamation that “The Federal Troops, the members of the Regular Police Force and all Special Police Officers have been authorized by me to kill any and all persons found engaged in Looting or in the Commission of Any Other Crime.”

It is estimated that as many as 500 people were shot dead in the city, many of whom, it has been suggested, were not looting at all, but were attempting to save their own possessions from the advancing fire. In addition, accusations of soldiers themselves engaging in looting also surfaced.

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