At 05.12 a.m. on 18 April 1906 an earthquake rocked San Francisco. The ground shook for forty seconds, stopped for 10 seconds, and then continued again for another 25 seconds. It must have been terrifying. The earthquake is calculated to have had 12,000 times the impact of the Hiroshima bomb. What little of the city had not been destroyed was burnt down in the ensuing fire, which lasted for three days. Over three thousand people died. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless. At 05.07 a.m. on 17 October 1989 another earthquake rocked San Francisco. This one lasted only fifteen seconds but it killed 63 people, left thousands homeless and caused a massive amount of damage (some of it still being repaired). Everybody on the Californian west coast knows that another one is due. Those two earthquakes were on the San Andreas fault. Oakland is built on top of another active fault, the Hayward, but it is Los Angeles, massive, sprawling Los Angeles, further south which is thought to be more at risk. Earthquake forecasters estimate that about twenty of California’s faults have a 5% or greater chance of a 6.7 or greater Richter scale earthquake within 30 years. It is, then, only a matter of time. My cousin’s wife, Wendy, lived through the 1989 earthquake. She was in a downtown office building at the time and there was a lot of internal damage. She says it’s best not to think about ‘the big one’ but, when you do, it really gets to you. As if to remind Californians that they live on borrowed time, there are frequent tremors. ‘Each time you wonder if it is going to be the big one,’ she says.