The American Red Cross is supporting people affected by the flooding of the Yukon, Koyukuk and Tok Rivers in the Alaskan Interior.
“We’re expecting more than 500 Alaskans to be affected at this point,” said Laura Spano, Development Specialist with the Alaska chapter.
Red Cross volunteers are handing out hundreds of personal hygiene comfort kits and clean-up kits to those in the affected areas. Red Cross volunteers will also be talking one-on-one with individuals and families about their specific needs, such as food, clothing, replacement medications and other support.
This disaster situation is particularly challenging because these communities are off the road system and most of the residents in the affected areas make their livelihood off of fishing and hunting. The summer fishing season has started, and the residents are desperate to return to set up their fish camps before the season is over.
People’s winter food stores are also being depleted, and many have lost their freezers and hunting and fishing gear, including weapons and fishing nets, to the flood waters.
Further complicating matters, the warmer temperatures are short-lived in Alaska. “They have three months tops to rebuild their community before winter hits,” Spano said.
In Galena, the hardest-hit village on the Yukon River, the conditions are still dangerous with high flood waters and major concerns of contamination. Nearly all of the residents have evacuated to stay with family and friends or in emergency shelters in Fairbanks, Anchorage and other communities.
Of the 190 occupied homes in Galena, an estimated 150 have sustained major damage or are likely destroyed as a result of fast-moving flood waters and contamination from both the breached sanitary lagoon and ruptured oil tanks.
The flooding started on May 27 when the frozen rivers began melting at a rapid pace, creating ice jams. When the jams broke, the water quickly overflowed their riverbanks, inundating surrounding communities.
The Yukon, Koyukuk and Tok Rivers ice over every year. But this year, the spring thaw happened late and came all at once, Spano said.
Since Galena has no connecting roads and travel in and out is limited to transport via air and water, the Tanana Chiefs Convention, the U.S. Army and Air Force and some private flight charters sent planes to Galena to fly some residents to safety in Fairbanks and Anchorage, hundreds of miles of away
How to help
The Red Cross is focused on providing relief supplies and comfort to people struggling to get back on their feet after spring flooding. You can help people affected by disasters like floods by making a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.