The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire eBook

Charles W. Morris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 368 pages of information about The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire.

The climax in the too free use of the rifle came on the 23d, when Major H. C. Tilden, a prominent member of the General Relief Committee, was shot and killed in his automobile by members of the citizens’ patrol.  Two others in the car were struck by bullets.  The automobile had been used as an ambulance and the Red Cross flag was displayed on it.  The excuse of the shooters was that they did not see the flag and that the car did not stop when challenged.  This act led to an order forbidding the carrying of firearms by the citizens’ committees and to stricter regulation of the soldiers in the use of their weapons.

Later on looting took a new form different from that at first shown and was practiced by a different class of people.  These were the sightseers, many of them people of prominence, who entered upon a crusade of relic hunting in Chinatown, gathering and carrying off from the ashes of this quarter valuable pieces of chinaware, bronze ornaments, etc.  It became necessary to put a stop to this, and on April 30th four militiamen were arrested while digging in the ruins of the Chinese bazaars, and others were frightened away by shots fired over their heads.  A strong military line was then drawn around the district, and this last resource of the looter came to an end.

CHAPTER V.

The Panic Flight of a Homeless Host.

The scene that was visible in the streets of San Francisco on that dread Wednesday morning was one to make the strongest shudder with horror.  Those three minutes of devastating earth tremors were moments never to be forgotten.  In such a time it is the human instinct to get into the open air, and the people stumbled from their heaving and quivering houses to find even the solid earth was swaying and rising and falling, so that here and there great rents opened in the streets.  To the panic-stricken people the minutes that followed seemed years of terror.  Doubtless some among them died of sheer fright and more went mad with terror.  There was a roar in the air like a burst of thunder, and from all directions came the crash of falling walls.  They would run forward, then stop, as another shock seemed to take the earth from under their feet, and many of them flung themselves face downward on the ground in an agony of fear.

Two or three minutes seemed to pass before the fugitives found their voices.  Then the screams of women and the wild cries of men rent the air, and with one impulse the terror-stricken host fled toward the parks, to get themselves as far as possible from the tottering and falling walls.  These speedily became packed with people, most of them in the night clothes in which they had leaped or been flung from their beds, screaming and moaning at the little shocks that at intervals followed the great one.  The dawn was just breaking.  The gas and electric mains were gone and the street lamps were all out.  The sky was growing white in the east, but before the sun could fling his early rays from the horizon there came another light, a lurid and threatening one, that of the flames that had begun to rise in the warehouse district.

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The San Francisco calamity by earthquake and fire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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