CALIFORNIA: The city's famous tram ines were left in a terrible state. Mediadrumimages/USNationalArchives

By Alex Jones


SHOCKING vintage photos show the horrifying impact of the United States’ second worst natural disaster – an earthquake and fire which killed thousands of people and destroyed EIGHTY PERCENT of one of the country’s most beloved cities.

CALIFORNIA: Dismayed crowds waych as fire and smoke billow over their city. Mediadrumimages/USNationalArchives

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was one of the worst catastrophes in U.S. history, claiming more than 3,000 lives – although some sources claim the actual figure may be more than double this number. Harrowing images, taken in 1906 by the US Army, show the horrific destruction wreaked on the city by the 7.9 magnitude quake; sick souvenir hunters picking through the wreckage for keepsakes and items to sell; and the tent cities that sprang up in the area to house half the city’s population which had been left homeless.

CALIFORNIA: Sick souvenir hunters pick throught the wreakage. Mediadrumimages/USNationalArchives

Another photo shows a pop-up soup kitchen with stoic survivors braving a smile for the camera.

On 18 April 1906, the residents of San Francisco were awoken with a jolt at 5.12am. Bleary eyed, frightened city-dwellers had just a few seconds to take stock before the real destruction began. For nearly a minute, the Northern California city of 450,000 was rocked with a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that ripped a 296-mile fissure along the San Andreas fault.

CALIFORNIA: One of the tent cities which sprang up in city following the disaster, this one taken four days after the tragic event. Mediadrumimages/USNationalArchives

The initial quake razed entire neighbourhoods and killed hundreds of people as buildings and streets collapsed into rubble. However, the tremors also ruptured gas pipes causing widespread fires. Cruelly, the water mains had also been knocked out of service so firefighters could only watch helplessly as fires consumed nearly 500 city blocks.

CALIFORNIA: Houses are left barely standing after the huge earthquake. Mediadrumimages/USNationalArchives

Survivors of the devastating disaster slept in tents in city parks and the greenspace where San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge would eventually stand, stood in long lines for food, and were required to do their cooking in the street to minimize the threat of additional fires. Over $30,000 worth of strong liquor was also destroyed to help prevent the spread of the blaze. More than two years later in 1908, many of these refugee camps were still in full operation. The overall cost of the damage from the earthquake was estimated at the time to be around US$400 million, a comparable cost to the Hurricane Katrina disaster which took place 99 years later.