The questionable point in those statements is that the numbers of dead spoken of in these few instances exceed the whole number given in the official records issued two weeks after the disaster. Yet they go to illustrate the actual horrors of the case, and are of importance for this reason. As regards the whole number killed, in fact, there is not, and probably never will be, a full and accurate statement. While about 350 bodies had been recovered at the end of the second week, it was impossible to estimate how many lay buried under the ruins, to be discovered only as the work of excavation went on, and how many more had been utterly consumed by the flames, leaving no trace of their existence. The estimates of the probable loss of life ran up to 1,500 and more, while the injured were very numerous.
The shock of the earthquake, the pulse of deep horror to which it gave rise, the first wild impulse to flee for life, gave way in the minds of many to a feeling of intense sympathy as agonized cries came from those pinned down to the ruins of buildings or felled by falling bricks or stones, and as the sight of dead bodies incrimsoned with blood met the eyes of the survivors in the streets. From wandering aimlessly about, many of these went earnestly to work to rescue the wounded and recover the bodies of the slain. In this merciful work the police and the soldiers lent their aid, and soon there was a large corps of rescuers actively engaged.
Soon numbers were taken, alive or dead, from the ruins, passing vehicles were pressed into the service, and the labor of mercy went on rapidly, several buildings being quickly converted into temporary hospitals, while the dead were conveyed to the Mechanics’ Pavilion and other available places. Portsmouth Square became for a time a public morgue. Between twenty and thirty corpses were laid side by side upon the trodden grass in the absence of more suitable accommodations. It is said that when the flames threatened to reach the square, the dead, mostly unknown, were removed to Columbia Square, where they were buried when danger threatened that quarter. Others were taken to the Presidio, and here the soldiers pressed into service all men who came near and forced them to labor at burying the dead, a temporary cemetery being opened there. So thick were the corpses piled up that they were becoming a menace, and early in the day the order was issued to bury them at any cost. The soldiers were needed for other work, so, at the point of rifles, the citizens were compelled to take to the work of burying. Some objected at first, but the troops stood no trifling, and every man who came within reach was forced to work. Rich men, unused to physical exertion, labored by the side of the workingmen digging trenches in which to bury the dead. The able-bodied being engaged in fighting the flames, General Funston ordered that