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In Anchorage, ‘violent’ earthquake causes extensive damage

A strong earthquake shook Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, startling residents, damaging buildings and uprooting roads. The governor has declared a disaster, and schools are closed for several days until buildings can be assessed. Judy Woodruff speaks by phone to Lori Townsend of Alaska Public Media about "the most violent shaking" she has experienced in 20 years in the state.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Anchorage, Alaska, is assessing the damage tonight, after a powerful earthquake rocked buildings and tore up roads. There have been no reports yet of deaths, but the governor has declared a disaster.

    I spoke with Lori Townsend of Alaska Public Media by phone a short time ago about what it was like when the quake hit.

  • Lori Townsend:

    It was the most violent shaking I have experienced. I have been in Alaska for nearly 20 years and have, of course, experienced many earthquakes. We had a couple of large ones in the last couple of years, but this was very violent and a long shake.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what do you understand of that damage? What are you hearing?

  • Lori Townsend:

    There has been extensive damage.

    The Seward Highway is closed because of rockfall near this area called McHugh Creek, and concern over other aftershocks that could create more landslide or rockfall damage, and so that's closed. There's damage on the northbound highway on the Glenn, it's called, the Glenn Highway.

    There was a partial collapse of a bridge at an intersection of International and Minnesota, and right in Anchorage, there's a sinkhole on the new Seward Highway. There's damages on other parts of the highway.

    And so, Judy, there's a lot of damage in the city, and it's still being assessed right now by city officials.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amazing there were no injuries.

    We understand the schools are closed, the oil pipeline was shut down. So, this is causing major disruption.

  • Lori Townsend:

    It is causing major disruption, but a lot of this is precautionary methods too.

    Alyeska Pipeline service company that maintains the pipeline has said that so far they have not seen that there is actual damage. But they shut the line down as a precaution until they can ensure that. And the schools have closed because the Anchorage School District, in an abundance of caution, has canceled classes for today, also Monday and Tuesday, and want parents to just get their kids out of there, so that they can assess and make sure that the buildings are completely safe before children go back to school next week at some point.

    We did have a report of one house that actually burned own because of a gas line rupture and it caused an explosion and burned this gentleman's house down. He is someone who had lived through the 1964 earthquake. And so he lost his whole his home.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the rest of the country is certainly watching with concern. And we wish you the best, and certainly hope there turn out to be no casualties.

    Lori Townsend, thank you very much.

  • Lori Townsend:

    Thank you, Judy.

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