VIDEO: A UC Berkeley researcher says that automatic gas shutoff devices, like those used in Los Angeles and Japan, could cut the number of post-earthquake fires in half in San Francisco.
But the city of San Francisco has yet to embrace shutoff technology, said Charles Scawthorn, an internationally recognized expert on fires after quakes. He says Japan has long relied on gas shutoffs built into gas meters – in part because of the lessons learned from the Kanto earthquake and fire, which killed an estimated 100,000 people.
“This was truly hell on earth,” Scawthorn said of the 7.9 magnitude quake that hit Tokyo on Sept. 1, 1923.
The disaster killed more than 10,000 people outright. But far more, an estimated 80,000 lives, were lost in the 100 fires that broke out in the hours after the initial quake.