The Alaska earthquake didn't kill anyone. And it's thanks to a small change the state made 50 years ago.

  • The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday caused no fatalities or widespread building damage, according to officials.
  • That’s mostly thanks to strict building codes passed after a 1964 Alaska earthquake.
  • That earthquake had a magnitude of 9.2, the second-largest ever recorded, and killed more than 130 people.
  • The recent earthquake still damaged numerous roads, and the full scope of it is still being assessed.

On Friday, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Anchorage, cracking roads open and leading Alaska’s governor to call for FEMA assistance.

But despite the massive earthquake, there were no fatalities, no widespread injuries, and no buildings that collapsed. Much of the area already has power again, and officials say the water is safe to drink.

Experts credit the safety to strong building codes installed following the 1964 Alaska earthquake. That earthquake and the tsunamis it unleashed killed more than 130 people and wiped small villages off the map. It lasted more than four minutes, and had a recorded magnitude of 9.2, – the most severe recorded earthquake in North America and the second-strongest in the history of the world.

“We have come a long way since the 1964 earthquake,” Joey Yang, the chairman of the civil engineering program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, told the New York Times. “Anchorage definitely knows about the power and damage a major earthquake can cause to the infrastructure and buildings.”

Now, Yang told the Times, developers must pass rigorous standards to be able to construct buildings in the most vulnerable parts of Alaska.

Yang also said that the depth of the earthquake – struck 30 miles underground – helped suppress its power on the surface. The aftershocks, which continued through the weekend, rarely registered above a 2.5 magnitude.

Read more:
A massive earthquake just hit Anchorage, Alaska. Here’s what it looked like for people on the ground.

Alaska Governor Bill Walker also praised the state’s building codes, telling the Associated Press that his own home sustained only minor damage.

“Building codes mean something,” he said.

The state is still assessing the full scope of the damage. Schools are closed through Tuesday as the buildings undergo inspection. And many roads have sustained serious damage.Images of streets cracked open and caving in went viral Friday, and The Alaska Department of Transportation found 50 sites with damage, according to the Associated Press.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said at a press conference Saturday that officials were following the process put in place to deal with natural disasters.

“In terms of a disaster, I think it says more about who we are than what we suffered,” he said. “People pulled together. We followed the plans that were in place.”

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