Last known survivor of 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire dies

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 8:10 PM

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A 109-year-old man, who was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, died on Monday, officials said.

William "Bill" Del Monte was just an infant in the city's North Beach neighborhood when the devastating quake struck on April 18, 1906, according to a statement from Mayor Ed Lee's office.

"We have not only lost a friend, but also a piece of living San Francisco history in his death," Lee said. "He ultimately witnessed our city's rise from the ashes more than a century ago seeing it rebuilt better than ever."

It is estimated that the quake and subsequent three-day-long conflagration killed at least 700 people, left some 225,000 homeless, and destroyed about 28,000 buildings, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

One pair of researchers said more than 3,000 people died as both direct and indirect results of the disaster, according to the USGS.

The earthquake, which was estimated as being between a magnitude 7.7 and 8.3, is described by the USGS as one of the most significant temblors in the country's history due to the insights it provided seismologists at the time.

The mayor's office said Del Monte died 11 days shy of his 110th birthday. Lee said he was saddened by the news and would dedicate this year's annual commemoration of the disaster to Del Monte's memory.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Sandra Maler)