Shortly after 5am on the morning of 18 April 1906, the people of San Francisco were awoken by a rumbling sound. Seconds later, a tremor shook every building in the city.
Fearing the worst, people flocked out of the buildings into the streets. With a population of over 300,000, this was a good move, for it was a foreshock to the main one which came about 30 seconds later. Whilst devastating San Francisco, it took only 3,000 lives. The 1906 quake remains one of the worst natural disasters in American history but it could have been much worse.
The ground undulated as if it was a sea, and the vast majority of its wooden buildings fell down. Even the supposedly quake-proof city hall collapsed into rubble. And following the tremors came fire, begun by hundreds of gas leaks. San Francisco would rise from the ashes in time to host the World Fair of 1915, but following the fires some eight square miles of the city was destroyed. A quarter of a million people were left homeless and thousands were still living in tents three years later.
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