Murkowski, Sullivan say federal aid is on the way

Published: Dec. 3, 2018 at 9:30 PM AKST
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Alaska’s two U.S. Senators toured the areas hit hardest by Friday’s 7.0 Cook Inlet Earthquake and said federal relief was on the way.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, said a supplemental funding bill for the Alaska quake and California wildfire disasters would likely come before Congress in January. The U.S. Transportation Department has already authorized $5 million for emergency road repairs.

The time between now and January gives Alaskans the chance to develop an accurate accounting of damages to public and private structures, the senators said.

“We don’t need to hurry up, quick, just throw a number out there just to get a number out there because Congress is ending,” Murkowski told reporters Monday. “We do need to take the time to do a fair and accurate assessment. We don’t want to understate the significance and the financial cost of this.”

Murkowski and Sullivan spent the day looking at damage caused by the Friday earthquake and aftershocks. They seemed particularly moved by a public school in Houston that was in session when the earthquake struck.

“We were in the gym, the music room, the library, and each time we went in, these rooms are destroyed — I mean they are trashed,” Sullivan said. “And the question we were asking, each time, were there students here? And they were like, ‘Yeah — this gym, this music room, this library, was packed with students’ and yet they all got out.”

Like others, Sullivan and Murkowski said they were amazed that no one was killed, especially in the schools, where they said students and teachers behaved admirably.

The two senators met with reporters Monday evening in the lobby of Petersen Towers, near the edge of Bootleggers Cove in Anchorage, an area devastated by the 1964 Good Friday quake. The senators have their offices in the building.

They praised Alaskans’ resilience in the face of disaster.

“The other image that I was left with today — again it goes to the Alaskan idea of resilience — a number of the big roads that we saw, they’re not fully rebuilt, but getting darn close,” Sullivan said. “And this is an earthquake that is 96 hours old, and yet, people working hard, and getting out there and making things happen — it’s pretty remarkable.”

They also made clear that money might be available to fix public and private structures.

“What about a business that was destroyed, what about a home that’s had major, major structural damage?” Sullivan said. “There are programs, state and federal, that we are going to be making sure there’s coordination on, trying to make sure those are fully funded, to make sure we get help to those individuals as well.”

The senators said Republicans and Democrats in Congress come together when a disaster strikes.

“A disaster is a disaster and we respond, and that’s what I think we need to be focusing on,” Murkowski said.