Jack London’s The Story of an Eyewitness

It is known that around 3,000 people have passed away. The actual death toll will never be known. Twenty-five thousand people had their houses taken away. Famous American author Jack London received a telegraph letter from Collier’s magazine a few hours after the horrible earthquake. They requested that Mr. London visit San Francisco and provide a report on his observations. It was only a few hours after the earthquake that he arrived in the city. “The Story of an Eyewitness” is the title of the report he wrote.

No contemporary city has ever been so totally destroyed in history. San Francisco is no more. Only a few houses that were close to the city’s edge and recollections remain of it. Its industrial zone is vanished. The business area has vanished. Its living and social spaces are gone. The factories, enormous retail establishments, newspaper buildings, hotels, and mansions belonging to the wealthy have all vanished. The fires started minutes after the earthquake. An enormous column of smoke from the fires could be seen from a hundred miles away in just one hour. And for three days and nights, this enormous fire raged in the sky, turning the sun red, lowering the day’s brightness, and enveloping the region in smoke.

Nothing could stop the fires. Both organization and communication were absent. All of the twentieth-century city’s modern inventions had been destroyed by the earthquake. Wall fragments that had collapsed littered the streets, which were fractured. There were problems with the telegraph and phone systems. The large water pipes had also broken. Thirty seconds of earth movement had destroyed all of man’s technologies and safety plans. Just twelve hours after the earthquake, on Wednesday afternoon, half of the city’s center had disappeared. I observed the massive flames. Everything was very quiet. The wind was absent. However, wind was battering the city from all directions. Strong winds were blowing upon the dying metropolis from the east, west, north, and south.

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