Landslide demolishes Alaska grocery store; no one injured

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A landslide in a city near the southern tip of the Alaska Panhandle demolished the back side of a grocery store.

No one was injured early Thursday when the landslide took out the back wall of Tatsuda's IGA in Ketchikan, the Ketchikan Daily News reported. The building suffered severe enough damage to be condemned.

Rock, dirt and trees knocked over shelves and pushed ceiling beams out of place. The impact ruptured the sprinkler system, affecting the entire structure, including an attached liquor store, city public works director Mark Hilson said.

“Trees, rocks, overburden came down, went right in the store," Hilson said. "Blew out the back wall, came in through the roof, through the aisles, structurally damaged it. The impact of the rock falling, dirt falling, trees falling, blew out the insulation, the soffit, some windows."

Behind the store, nothing is visible but rock, he said.

“It looks like a rock pile,” Hilson said. “It's just rock piled up."

The last employee left the store at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Emergency responders received a call about the slide just before 1 a.m. from a security company. The slide set off a fire alarm. The store owners were there when firefighters arrived, fire marshal Andrea Buchanan said.

Water and structural damage was apparent when firefighters entered the building, Buchanan said, both to load-bearing walls and the roof system.

"I saw trees that had come off like, I would say, from the top of the cliff or rock wall, had penetrated through the roof of the building," Buchanan said.

Bill Tatsuda owns the store with his daughter, Katherine. In a social media message, Katherine Tatsuda said they were glad the slide occurred when no one was in the store. There is no timetable for reopening, her father said.

"It looks like it's going to be an awful long time, if ever, reopening the store," Bill Tatsuda said in an interview.

The store employed about 25 people. Workers helped move salvageable products into a refrigeration unit.

"Store's been there 46 years, and we've been very fortunate that this hasn't happened before to this degree," Tatsuda said. "And, you know, I personally have been there the whole time and have had a very good ride with this thing. Just unfortunate that it's come to such a sudden end."

Ketchikan is a city of 8,150 on the southwestern coast of Revillagigedo Island, about 690 miles (1110 kilometres ) north of Seattle. It's the first Alaska port of call for cruise ships and state ferries. The city is known for its waterfront and the steep, forested terrain that rises behind homes.

The Associated Press