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Landslide Does Millions In Damage to Historic Alaska Town’s Waterfront

November 4, 1994

SKAGWAY, Alaska (AP) _ A landslide caused major damage to this historic Gold Rush community’s waterfront, and a construction worker was unaccounted-for after being swept into the icy water, officials said.

A Coast Guard helicopter and two tugboats searched the harbor for about three hours Thursday night, but found no sign of the missing man.

″They had four or five guys on the bows of the tugs, looking into the water,″ said Steve Williams, a reporter with KHNS radio. ″They came up empty.″

Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said he was going to ask Gov. Walter J. Hickel to issue a disaster declaration for the community, which is located at the northern end of Lynn Canal in southeastern Alaska, some 100 miles northwest of Juneau.

The slide occurred about 7:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s not yet known what caused the earth to give way, creating a 12-foot wave that tore loose a nearby ferry dock and filled the boat harbor with debris.

″I was on a tug coming over from Haines and we started hitting debris three or four miles out, a lot of pilings,″ said Mike Sica, KHNS station manager. ″All that debris blocked the small boat harbor so they couldn’t join in the search.″

About 70 percent of the city’s 800-foot-long railroad dock collapsed. It was being rebuilt, under floodlights, when the accident occurred.

″There was a lot of weight on the dock at the time,″ Sica said. ″White Pass (railroad) was working on it.″

Selmer said no damage assessment was immediately available but that it would reach millions of dollars.

The historic buildings in Skagway, a major tourist attraction, were not affected. But the damaged dock could hamper the visits of the many cruise ships that stop there during the summer. The town will mark its centennial in 1998.

Five people were working on the dock when the landslide occurred. All were swept into the water although four were recovered, the Coast Guard said. The name of the missing man was being withheld until relatives can be notified.

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