Fox newsreel footage shows some of the wreckage and the Red Cross relief effort in Santa Paula on the next full day after the disaster, March 14, 1928.
Description: Scenes of the wreckage and ruins after fatal collapse of the St. Francis Dam. Scenes of wrecked homes and damages. People being fed at the relief center where they are also given shelter. Views of children eating hot dogs. Police walk around and survey destroyed houses. Family outside of ruined house, mother holding a broken doll. Men repair phone lines.
This film print was donated by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation to the University of South Carolina. Used by permission.
Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.
At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 411 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.
It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.