ALGERIA: Twelve Seconds

The rich, alluvial topsoil of Algeria's Cheliff River valley has long provided France with one of her richest colonial gardens, but the bedrock that lies under the valley's rich farms is full of treachery. One night last week it was torn and wrenched with such mighty subterranean convulsions that in just twelve seconds much of the valley was a waste of flood water, its principal town Orleansville a desolation of rubble and wreckage.

Founded in 1843 by France's colonial conqueror, Marechal Thomas-Robert Bugeaud de La Piconnerie, Orleansville was a dusty, bustling trade center of 32,500, built on the site of...

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