It was not until May 3d that news came over the wires of another serious item of loss. The merchants had waited until then for their fire-proof safes and vaults to cool off before attempting to open them. When this was at length done the results proved disheartening. Out of 576 vaults and safes opened in the district east of Powell and north of Market Street, where the flames had raged with the greatest fury, it was found that fully forty per cent. had not performed their duty. When opened they were found to contain nothing but heaps of ashes. The valuable account books, papers and in some cases large sums of money had vanished, the loss of the accounts being a severe calamity in a business sense. As all the banks were equipped with the best fire-proof vaults, no fear was felt for the safety of their contents.
Chinatown suffered severely, the merchants of that locality possessing large stocks of valuable goods, many of which were looted by seemingly respectable sightseers after the ruins had cooled off, bronze, porcelain and other valuable goods being taken from the ruins. One example consisted in a mass of gold and silver valued at $2,500, which had been melted by the fire in the store of Tai Sing, a Chinese merchant. This was found by the police on May 3d in a place where it had been hidden by looters.
But with all its losses San Francisco does not despair. The spirit of its citizens is heroic, and there are some hopeful signs in the air. The insurances due are estimated to approximate $175,000,000, and there are other moneys likely to be spent on building during the coming year, making a total of over $200,000,000. Eastern capitalists also talk of investing $100,000,000 of new capital in the rebuilding of the city, while the San Francisco authorities have a project of issuing $200,000,000 of municipal bonds, the payment to be guaranteed by the United States Government. Thus, two weeks after the earthquake, daylight was already showing strongly ahead and hope was fast beginning to replace despair.
Wonderful Record of Thrilling Escapes.
Shuddering under the memories of what seems more like a nightmare than actual reality to the survivors of this frightful calamity, they have tried to picture in words far from adequate the days of terror and the nights of horror that fell to the lot of the people of the Golden Gate city and their guests.
They recount the roar of falling structures and the groans and pitiful cries of those pinned beneath the timbers of collapsing buildings. They speak of their climbing over dead bodies heaped in the streets, and of following tortuous ways to find the only avenue of escape—the ferry, where men and women fought like infuriated animals, bent on escape from a fiery furnace.
These refugees tell of the great caravan composed of homeless persons in its wild flight to the hills for safety, and in that great procession women, harnessed to vehicles, trudging along and tugging at the shafts, hauling all that was left of their earthly belongings, and a little food that foresight told them would be necessary to stay the pangs of hunger in the hours of misery that must follow.