4066R THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-RECONSTRUCTION PERIOD.
Yokohama, and other great cities. The city of
Tokio alone covered an area of twenty-nine
square miles, with a population of over
2,000,000, while the suburban districts surrounding it contained about as many more.
Six of the fifteen wards were officially
reported "totally destroyed," four were
"half destroyed," three were "partly destroyed," and two were "not destroyed but
seriously damaged." In Yokohama, Tokio's
outlet to the sea, the destruction was even
greater in proportion than at the capital.
Out of about 95,000 houses at least three-fourths were totally destroyed. The total
number of dead and injured throughout the
devastated area was estimated on September
13 at 1,356,749. The exact number never
can be known.
The earthquake began without warning
shortly before noon. The shocks were so
violent that in a few minutes, not more than
six according to some accounts, great cities
had been reduced to ruins. In almost every
city fire speedily added its horrors to those
of the earthquake, its fury often aided by
broken gas pipes and bursting oil tanks.
Great numbers of persons caught in the
ruins of their homes were burned to death.
In Tokio alone, more than 350,000 houses
were converted into smoldering charcoal
and ashes, and about 80 per cent of the
surviving inhabitants were rendered homeless. In Yokohama and other coast towns
vast tidal waves swept into the cities, "smashing in upon the stricken land, drowning
the panic-stricken people by thousands."
In places the earth's crust buckled under
the pressure of vast forces. Now and then
it opened in great fissures engulfing whatever happened to be near. For many days
minor shocks continued, and up to September 8, 1,319 had been counted. Man
seemed at the "mercy of giant forces," and
his wisdom appeared "as a candle blown by
wind in the night." Across the plain that
lies above a fire-stream the earthquakes
rolled "like sluggish waves."
Yet man's courage rose above all these
terrors. On the day after the great shocks,
while the capital was still blazing and the
earth still heaving, a new Cabinet was formed
on the open ground adjoining the detached
palace of the Prince Regent. With courage
and vigor the new Government took hold
of the appalling situation. Martial law was
declared, and relief measures were organized. Large sums were appropriated to aid
those who had suffered, and when the terrible news spread over the world vast relief
funds were speedily subscribed in America
and other countries. And Japan commenced the rebuilding of her future on the
smoldering ruins of her greatest disaster.
The earthquake was speedily followed by
a disaster of lesser dimensions on the American side of the Pacific. On the night of
September 8, a flotilla of American destroyers was traveling at high speed along the
coast of southern California. Through
some mistake the foremost vessels plunged
upon the jagged rocks of La Honda, seventy-five miles north of Santa Barbara. Seven
vessels and more than twenty sailors were
By some persons it was supposed that
unusual tidal currents produced by the
earthquake had caused the disaster. This
seems, however, to have been incorrect.
Four hours earlier the Pacific Mail liner
Cuba had run upon San Miguel Island about
thirty-five miles away. Meanwhile the
destroyer squadron, nineteen in number,
was cruising south in a heavy fog in column
formation behind the Delphy. The course
was set by dead reckoning and by wireless
compass directions from the shore. The
air was filled with radio messages telling of
the plight of the Cuba and directing the
work of rescue, and it is said that the shore
directions to the squadron were garbled and
made unintelligible by these messages about
the Cuba wreck. In some way the squadron
got twenty miles out of the sea lane it was
supposed to be following, and the foremost vessels ran upon the rocks and were
On October 1, 1923, Russia abandoned
the Julian calendar, thereby dropping thirteen days from her record. Since the World
War, all the governments of eastern Europe
and western and northern Asia, including
Turkey, have adopted the Gregorian calendar, bringing the whole world under one
system of chronology.