[Promoted from the diaries with minor edits by DavidNYC.]
This post is actually by my brother, CaliforniaShoes. He's comparing the government reaction this past week to the government reaction the last time an American city was destroyed - San Francisco, April 18, 1906.
The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.
By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.
By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.
The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.
By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.
By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.
St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.
By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.
At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.
Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.
Of course, the technology of the day was fairly primitive, and the U.S. was a much poorer country. No doubt we could move more quickly today.
Source for times and dates.
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