September 3, 2005

SAME AS IT EVER WAS:

Deadly Similarities a Century Apart: Historians note eerie parallels between disastrous aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. (John M. Glionna, September 4, 2005, LA Times)

As Americans followed in horror the anarchy, looting and mounting death toll in the wake of the New Orleans flooding, California historians compared that city's devastation with another disaster of nearly a century ago: the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

In both cases, they say, cities crucial to the U.S. economy of the era — San Francisco's financial might and New Orleans' offshore oil reserves — were hit by a natural disaster: one by an 8.3 magnitude temblor and the other by a Category 4 hurricane.

But after withstanding the first blow, both cities suffered extensive damage from the unexpected second punch that followed within hours.

Fires raged in San Francisco for three days, leveling 90% of the city's structures, including 37 national banks. In New Orleans, several levees were breached, causing massive flooding and forcing evacuation of the city.

Historians point out that the Bay Area debacle was in part caused by a lack of water; New Orleans suffered from too much of it.

Stephen Becker, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Historical Society, said that even though they occurred 99 years apart, the similarities between the two catastrophes are uncanny.


And the next one will bear an uncanny resemblance to this one....

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2005 11:59 PM
Comments

San Francisco's "debacle" also occurred in part because one man who had a plan for an earthquake and the ability to carry it out, the Fire Chief, was killed in the quake itself, and that gap in the chain of command, and the delays and chaos his death caused, was enough.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 4, 2005 12:18 PM
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