Alaska Baptists Get Into Ministry Mode After Earthquake

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just outside Anchorage, Alaska, Nov. 30. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, but electricity was knocked out, roads broke apart and buildings were damaged. Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP) — Scott Belmore was outside his house, loading some old furniture into his truck with his son and a friend when Alaska experienced one of its most powerful earthquakes in half a century. The men clung to the truck as it bounced on the driveway amid the shaking.

Inside the house, Dana Belmore was shaken to the floor in her bedroom and feared for the safety of their young daughter who had been reading on the bottom bunk in her room. The two of them, terrified, were able to reunite and flee the house after the shaking, still not believing what had just happened.

Hundreds of aftershocks followed the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck just outside Anchorage, the state’s largest city, Nov. 30 at about 8:30 a.m. local time. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, but electricity was knocked out, roads broke apart and buildings were damaged.

Belmore, a Baptist campus minister at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, sprang into action as soon as he knew his family was safe. Their water heater had broken, so he crawled under the house to shut off the water.

Then he went house to house, checking on neighbors and calling some who had left for work to ask if he could enter their homes to turn off water and gas. He took pictures of damage to show them what they couldn’t yet get home to see for themselves.

At his own house, “everything was on the floor,” Belmore told Baptist Press. Contents of cabinets shook out and broke, including dishes. “We had one small dinner plate and a bowl left, and the only reason we had that is because it was in the dishwasher,” he said. “Lamps, mirrors and pictures were all destroyed.”

Though Alaska is the state most likely to have earthquakes, earthquake insurance is uncommon because of deductibles that are about 20 percent of a home’s value. With an earthquake like the one that struck Nov. 30, homeowners are facing significant costs to repair structures and replace possessions. But most will not exceed any deductibles that would have been in place if they had earthquake insurance. Like most residents and churches, the Belmores didn’t have earthquake insurance.

While chaos filled her home, Dana Belmore was thinking of the department of transportation workers who were working around the clock to repair a nearby bridge with less than six hours of daylight per day. She and her daughter went to their local Walmart in Eagle River and asked whether the store could donate some food for the workers. The Belmores, natives of Louisiana who have lived in Alaska five years, delivered pizza, rotisserie chicken, fruit, donuts, chips and other snacks to the workers to show their appreciation.

At First Baptist Church in Eagle River, the worship center was not usable two days after the earthquake. Ceiling tiles had fallen, books were piled high on the library floor, broken dishes were scattered on the kitchen floor, and dust and grit covered everything.

“All of these crashes were easily fixed by church members working together to put things in order,” Marge Cutting, a longtime staff member of the church, said in written comments to BP.

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Source: Baptist Press