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THE BAY AREA QUAKE : Images : PORTRAIT OF A DISASTER : 'Oh God, Help Us'

October 20, 1989

IT IS TUESDAY, OCT. 17, 1989. San Francisco plays host to the World Series. The nation is set to watch. Suddenly, with all eyes turned west, Northern California offers an awesome surprise. TV screens go blank. When the picture returns, baseball has vanished, replaced by the stuff of nightmares.

IN A QUARTER OF A MINUTE the earthquake delivers a full ration of misery. At what was to have been a golden moment, a metropolis is brought to its knees. Beneath the broken buildings, bridges and freeways, a grim human toll awaits discovery. It will be days before the digging ends.

The 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco was later estimated by seismologists to have reached a magnitude of 8.3.

San Francisco's Marina District suffered the city's greatest damage, although it was more than 50 miles from the earthquakes's epicenter near Santa Cruz.

The Nimitz Freeway was reinforced in 1977 in the first of a three-phase program to earthquake-proof state highways.

"We're having an earth . . ." --An unidentified voice on the ABC World Series pre-game show as the picture turned to static.

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