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Alaska Earthquake | Severe damage in Anchorage

Alaska rocked by over 1,000 aftershocks during cleanup

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Sunday, December 2, 2018, 1:52 PM - ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Aftershocks from Friday's powerful Alaskan earthquake continued to pound the area around Anchorage on Saturday, as workers strove to patch up buckled roads and residents began cleaning up damage around their homes and businesses.

A tsunami warning was issued for Cook Inlet, which links Anchorage with the Gulf of Alaska, but it was later canceled.

The 7.0 magnitude quake struck Friday morning about 8 miles (13 km) north of Anchorage, the state's largest city with 300,000 residents, disrupting rush-hour traffic and jamming telephone service. There were no reports of serious injuries.

“We are on the road to returning to normal,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said at a news conference on Saturday. He credited the region's strict building codes with minimizing damage and preventing many injuries.

By Saturday, state transportation crews and contractors were already on scene to make closed roads usable as soon as possible, and the Anchorage School District said maintenance and recovery workers were assessing damage to school buildings to make sure they were safe, officials said.

The state late Saturday identified 47 earthquake-damaged roads and bridges, most of which cannot be fully repaired until the region's dark and snowy winter has passed.

More than 1,000 aftershocks of magnitude 1.5 or greater have rocked Alaska since Friday, according to the US Geological Survey. 

“It will take months for the rate of the aftershocks, the rate at which they’re occurring, to drop down to what you would consider background levels,”  Alaska State Seismologist Mike West said in an interview.

In a letter to parents and staff, Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop said that "many, if not all," schools sustained damage in the quake, and that it was securing its buildings to protect valuables that students and teachers left behind as they fled.

The district was aiming to reopen its schools by Wednesday.

The city is keeping a tally of costs associated with the quake, but did not yet have an estimate, said Municipal Manager Bill Falsey.

North of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also sustained considerable damage, including the wreck of Vine Road. Most of the borough's schools will also be closed until Wednesday, the Matanuska-Susitna School District said.

As of midday Saturday, there had been no serious earthquake-related injuries reported, and crews were working to set up detours around some heavily damaged roads, officials said.

Anchorage's Port of Alaska, which handles half the goods shipped to the state, is also being evaluated for damages, Falsey said. Workers there were in the process of unloading fuel from a tanker when the quake hit, Falsey said.

The biggest transportation problem area is the sole route headed north from town, the Glenn Highway, Falsey said. Much of that highway was ripped apart in the quake, and motorists must detour around a damaged bridge, he said.

Strong earthquakes are not uncommon in seismically active Alaska but tend to occur in remote, sparsely populated regions.

The state has had an average of one magnitude 7 to 8 earthquake every year since 1900, according to the state government website, and the state has more earthquakes than any other U.S. region. Southern Alaska experienced the second largest earthquake ever recorded in 1964, which had a magnitude of 9.2.

(WINTER IS HERE: How will El Niño shape Canada's upcoming winter? Find out with The Weather Network’s 2019 Winter Forecast | FORECAST & MAPS HERE)

Video posted on social media showed supermarkets with items from shelves strewn across the floors in the quake's aftermath, and of television station KTVA's newsroom in shambles.

A photo posted by a reporter at KTVA showed a deserted showroom, with part of its ceiling collapsed and debris scattered throughout the room. CNN reported that television station KTUU, an NBC affiliate, also was knocked off the air.

KTUU's website featured a photo of a snow-covered highway that had buckled, with a car sitting between two deep fissures crossing the highway.

The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport remained open, but arrivals and departure ramps were closed and there were reports of road damage, the airport said on Twitter.

The city's schools were evacuated and parents were notified to pick up their children.


(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska; writing by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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