Thursday, December 29, 2005

September 17, 1923 archives: In the Wake of the Quake

Discussions elsewhere had me looking through the archives for information on the Great Earthquake of 1923, also known as the Kanto Earthquake. Around 100,000 people in Japan died in this horrible tragedy.

But the carnage was compounded by the deaths of apparently thousands of Koreans in mob violence after rumors spread that ethnic Koreans living in Japan had poisoned the water supply (perhaps causing the earthquake) and were trying to overthrow the government.

Check in the "damage" section below to see what this contemporary news piece had to say about that.

News from Japan was extremely contradictory and the most reliable information can be taken as only approximately correct.




(Signed) "YOSHIHITO,


President Coolidge's telegram of sympathy was the first to reach Japan after the disaster.

Mark Sullivan, dean of Washington newspaper correspondents, said that Japan's needs is America's opportunity—to show her friendship and end misunderstanding. This is the sentiment of the Government, unsentimental " Big Business " and the warm-hearted American public.

Damage. Yokohama is completely razed by quake, tidal wave and a flood of burning oil from exploding tanks. Tokyo is half in ashes. Yokosuka is terribly, injured; with many naval vessels lost. Forty-five thousand square miles in Eastern Japan are devastated; 500 to 600 miles of railroad are damaged; 14 big towns damaged; 15,000 Koreans, accused of looting and rioting, added to Tokyo's loss and were interned by the troops sent to restore order.

First estimates of loss were $5,000,000,000—five times the cost of the Russo-Japanese War, but later insurance figures put the property loss in the neighborhood of $1,000,000,000.

Damage to Foreigners. " Final " reports placed foreign dead at 200, but only 73 were verified—70 at Yokohama and three at Hakone. Reports from Tokyo varied widely and no reliable figure could be given. Max D. Kirjasoff, U. S. Consul, was killed, Dutch Consul killed. U. S. Ambassador Woods and family, Italian Ambassador G. de Martini, French Consul Claudet reported safe. British Consul lost his hand. Total British dead are estimated at 30.

Statistics. The earthquake is established as the "greatest disaster the world has ever known." The Japanese earthquake of 1891 killed 10,000 people; that of 1896 20,000. The Lisbon earthquake of November, 1755, the greatest in history up to the time of the present disaster, killed 40,000 people; earthquake, tidal wave, fire caused $100,000,000 damage—a huge toll of lives and enormous damage for those days. The recent Japanese earthquake affected about 45,000 square miles on the east coast, killed about 200,000 people, injured about 300,000 to 500,000, and made homeless about 2,500,000 persons. Damage to property caused by the quake, fire, tidal wave, was estimated at $1,000,000,000. Temperature of 150 degrees F. was recorded in the vicinity of Tokyo. Tokyo's flames were visible 200 miles away. The Osaka Asahi reported Tokyo dead at 150,000; Yokohama, 100,000; 60,000 at the Yokosuka naval base. Cholera was reported but not confirmed at Tokyo and Yokohama. Cables were not damaged. Work started in clearing up the devastated areas and in erecting temporary shelters.

Notables Dead. The following members of the Japanese Royal Family and aristocracy were reported killed: Princess Hiro Kan-In, daughter of Prince Kan-In; Prince Moromosa, Prince Tadeshige Shimazu, formerly of the great house of Satsuma; Dowager Princess Yoshiko, Dowager Princess Yamashina; Prince Hirotada Kalacho, Prince and Princess Yamashina. Marshal Prince Kan-In, Minister of Education Keijiro Okano, Minister of Justice Hiranuma were all reported missing.

Crown Prince Hirohito postponed his wedding with Princess Nayako Kuni, scheduled for this Fall. The new date is uncertain.

Silk. It was at first expected that the earthquake would disrupt the silk market and cause "sky-high " prices. Despite heavy damage to silk stocks in Japan, the areas of production escaped destruction, and there is still a large quantity of stock on hand. Meanwhile China and Italy can supply emergency demands. Prices are likely to advance. But not violently.

Shipping. Marine insurance losses were estimated between 25 and 50 million dollars. The Japanese liner Taiyo Maru sent S. O. S. calls, but was subsequently reported safe. The C. P. R. liners Empress of Canada and Empress of Australia arrived respectively at Yokohama and Kobe, with only minor damages. There appears to have been no loss of life on the high seas.

Finance. The gold reserve of the Bank of Japan (Tokyo), valued at $100,000,000, was saved. The total gold reserve of Japan is placed at $1,000,000,000, the bulk of which is in the U. S. and Great Britain. U. S. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon announced that Japan can easily obtain a reconstruction loan. It is thought likely that $100,000,000 will be asked. A 30-day moratorium was declared by the Japanese Government.

Relief. Twenty-two U. S. warships, under the command of Rear Admiral Anderson, were rushed to the scenes of the disaster. Three destroyer divisions at Port Arthur, Tientsin, Chin-Wang-Tao were also sent to Japan at once and arrived on the East coast soon after the quake had subsided. Transports loaded with supplies were dispatched from Manila. Sixty ships were rushed from the U. S. A. with supplies and relief workers. Italy, France, Britain and other nations assisted the Japanese people in the stricken land.

U. S. Ambassador Woods called for tinned meat, condensed milk, flour, underclothing, galvanized iron, dimensioned timber to provide food and shelter for the refugees. Large consignments of these materials were shipped; more will follow. U. S. architects offered their services " in any capacity" to the Japan Government.

Almost every nation in the world helped Japan. King George gave $2,250; the Lord Mayor of London's fund was reported at more than $300,000. France and Italy and many other nations raised funds. Hong Kong and the Dutch East Indies made a money drive. The Soviet Government sent large supplies of provisions.

The Japanese Government voted $265,000,000 for general relief and reconstruction. Kobe raised $17,500,000 in ten minutes. The Mikado gave $5,000,000 from his private funds. Tokyo reported hunger lines two miles long. (There was a small ball of rice for each refugee.)

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