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And lasted about one minute. Subsequently, fires erupted in San Francisco as electrical wires were severed and gas mains exploded. The fires burned for three days over an area of almost five square miles. Unable to stem the blaze because underground water mains had been damaged by the quake, the fire department stood by as over 28,000 buildings and residences succumbed to the flames. 10 Exactly how many people died remains unclear, as we will see, but 3,000 is by no means farfetched. Nineteen hundred and six, of course, was not the first time that the San Francisco area had been rocked by an earthquake.
According to his account, what the city had on its hands here was a natural disaster, not an act of God. As he put it, “the forces of Disaster as Archetype 33 nature seized this great city and shook it like a rat in a trap. ” Newlands believed the quake caused only 3 percent of the destruction, though how he arrived at that figure is unclear. Twenty percent is now the accepted number. “Earthquakes mean nothing,” explained the quake-defying senator. “A little shake in the earth’s crust, resulting in a crack here and there of a few inches, constitute no real source of danger.
Charleston had risen to power and commercial dominance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as cotton and rice plantations expanded throughout the hinterlands. An excellent system of navigable rivers penetrating the interior allowed crops to enter Charleston, after which they were shipped out of the city’s well-protected harbor. But in the years after the Civil War, the port’s commercial prospects began to wane. In the 1880s, railroads crisscrossed the region, bringing crops overland to markets in the north and eclipsing Charleston altogether.
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