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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Bureau of Emergency Management

Readiness. Response. Recovery.

Phone: 503-823-4375

Fax: 503-823-3903

TDD: 503-823-3947

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mental_floss: Film of San Francisco After the 1906 Earthquake

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"On April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco. Its epicenter was a few miles from the city, but at an estimated magnitude of 7.9,  it was a severe blow to what was the largest west coast city of its time. The  quake was felt as far north as Oregon and as far east as Nevada. A massive fire  broke out as a result of the earthquake, and the fire further devastated San  Francisco, ultimately making as many as 300,000 people homeless (in a city whose  population was 410,000 at the time).

"Many photographs of the earthquake damage and fire exist, but movies are  relatively rare. Edison shot some, and another important motion picture is  simply called San Francisco  earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906. It shows some of the cleanup efforts in  the still-smoldering ruins; this silent film has been preserved by the Library  of Congress. In 2009, an assemblage of motion pictures (apparently including new  footage) was unveiled showing the aftermath. The first part is the most  interesting: a drive down main city streets, which are covered with ash and  dust. There are some intact buildings, and even streetcars running. People  wander among the debris, dressed in fine suits and dresses -- it seems that many  are there just to witness the destruction, some are headed somewhere (to get  food?), and a very few are already rebuilding. It's mesmerizing watching these  people in the ruins of their city. Later footage shows the tent camps that  appeared in Oakland and other nearby regions..." [more]