Page 0019

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

lost.

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

lost.

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.