5. 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
The earthquake that hit San Francisco and parts of Northern California at just after 5 a.m. on April 18, 1906, is estimated to have been a magnitude 7.7 to 8.2. It ruptured along the San Andreas Fault, booth north and south, for about 300 miles, with the quake center located two miles offshore from the city. As a result of the quake itself, and the ensuing fires that blazed for days, the city of San Francisco was virtually leveled. At first, city and state officials announced the death toll at 376. This would have been a miraculous total had it been true. Fearing that the true figures would adversely affect real estate prices and investment in rebuilding the city, the officials had simply made up that figure. Also, hundreds of casualties in Chinatown had been ignored and unrecorded. Today the number of dead is estimated at 3,000, with 300,000 (about 70 percent of San Francisco's population) left homeless.