Anchorage, AK Good Friday Earthquake, Mar 1964

Downtown Anchorage Anchorage Main Street Anchorage Railroad Bridge Collapse

A civil defense official said, "It is still possible some victims are in the rubble. We might not get to some for quite a while."

Valdez, Alaska (AP) -- "It was as though the bottom had dropped out of the ocean."

A steamship company representative thus described the violent earthquake and seismic waves that flattened and charred this seaport town and killed a reported 32 persons

The community of 1,000 on the Gulf of Alaska 150 miles southeast of Anchorage took one of the worst beatings from Friday night's violent shock.

Mayor BRUCE WOODFORD said it could be several months before residents -- evacuated to higher ground -- can return to their homes.

Many of the dead were working or standing on the city's dock which collapsed with a roar. The freighter Chena, being unloaded at the dock, was tossed around by the wild wave action.
"The water went down and then up," said steamship agent JOHN KELSEY. "The ship hit bottom twice."

Valdez Bay is 35 feet deep at dockside but the incoming tidal action covered the wharf and lifted the Chena above the normal shore level. Residents said the flip-flopping ship could be seen on the rise above housetops which normally obscure the bay.

A longshoreman aboard the Chena, JIM AUBERT, said the ship seemed to rise about 30.
The quake and wave also set five oil tanks on fire and damage, by official estimates, 90 percent of the towns buildings. Black smoke still curled from burning oil tanks.
Mayor WOODFORD said property loss would total at least $20 million.

"We are down on one knee," the mayor said, "but we're going to get back up."

Only two bodies had been recovered but WOODFORD said 30 others were "surely dead." Included were five children who were watching the ship being unloaded.

Valdez, a salmon fishing and seaport community, was virtually deserted with surviving residents encamped at Gulkana, 117 highway miles to the north. The town was evacuated Saturday night except for security patrols. Cleanup crews moved in during the day Sunday.
Residents said the town was hit by three tidal surges, the worst around midnight. "I was standing in water to about my knees," said ship agent KELSEY, "and it suddenly rose to chest height."

The waterfront was relatively crowded with longshoremen and residents watching the ship unloading.