Dunleavy declares disaster in Little Diomede building collapse

Little Diomede
Little Diomede, a village in the Bering Strait, is only accessible by aircraft during the winter. (File/KNOM)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration for Little Diomede in a Friday statement, responding to the partial collapse of the city building into the local school late last month.

The shifting of the building caused the school to close indefinitely and switch students to online learning. According to the release, a structural engineer from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and representatives from Kawerak, the Bering Strait region’s tribal consortium, assessed the situation in Little Diomede on Dec. 3.

Dunleavy’s office said Friday that the engineer suspects settling ground and the age of the city building contributed to the collapse. A member of the Alaska State Defense Force in Little Diomede is now in communication with the State Emergency Operation Center.

a collapsed building
The city building in Little Diomede shifts into the school after a partial collapse on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (Courtesy Carla Ahkvaluk)

The city building, which housed city offices, the fire department, and the post office, is undergoing equipment removal. A temporary post office has been established in the old clinic according to the release.

Jeremy Zidek, a public information officer for the state Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, says that contractors are actively demolishing the building, but the timeline is heavily dependent on weather conditions.

The village is only accessible by air in the winter and by boat when the ice thaws.

The disaster declaration activated the state’s Public Assistance program, which will reimburse local governments and nonprofits for emergency protective measures and infrastructure repairs.

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