Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Inupiat Eskimo villagers in a small Alaska community are facing six long months of melting ice and snow nearly every time they want to cook a meal or bathe, after freezing temperatures hit before workers could fill the village’s two large storage tanks with water.
Officials in Kivalina had hoped to pull more than 1 million gallons from the nearby Wulik River before it froze over — enough to allow residents to cook, clean and keep its Laundromat, or “washeteria,” open all winter.
But city administrator Janet Mitchell said Tuesday that crews were “packing it up because it’s just too cold to pump.” At 8 a.m., the temperature was 26 degrees in the community 83 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
Kivalina has only enough water stored to keep its school open through mid-March — if the rest of the village forgoes the luxury of showers and washing machines at the washeteria.
Superintendent Norm Eck said the school — which opened late this year because of water problems — has to be operational until at least May 16, if not longer.
“Those kids deserve to have a good education, and they deserve to have their school,” Eck said.
Mitchell was preparing a memo to the village’s 400 residents saying that because of the water shortages, the washeteria would be open only two days a week — likely Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the details of the conservation plan were still being ironed out.
Residents may have expected this news given the weather problems this year, “but they aren’t going to be happy,” Mitchell said. “I don’t want to cut them off completely. It’ll be tricky.”
As of Saturday, 667,000 gallons had been put into the tanks. Some of the water had been treated, but some had to wait for mud to settle.
“At that point, they would have to ration water pretty substantially,” said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security, which had not officially been informed of the shutdown. The city has no way to melt massive amounts of snow or ice in winter.
Kivalina is on a barrier reef in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast — about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage. The community is like a lot of Alaska villages off the road system. Conveniences that most Americans take for granted are still a dream.
According to the state Commerce, Community, and Economic Development Department, only the village school and clinic have their own water and sewer systems. Residents haul their own bathroom waste to a landfill.
Kivalina’s infrastructure problems are compounded by its uncertain future at its current location. Shore ice that used to protect the reef from waves generated by fierce Chukchi Sea winter storms has diminished with climate warming, leaving the shore susceptible to erosion. The community hopes to relocate to higher ground.
The water tanks, even when full, hold just a six-month supply for the entire community. Every February, the washeteria closes to showers and laundry so the school will have enough. Water is doled out to use at home.
The city’s water tanks hold 670,000 and 500,000 gallons.
The community has just two months — July and August — to extract water from the Wulik River. The pipe freezes in winter, and there’s too much ice in the river during May and June.
In July, Mitchell said, the community was ready to fill tanks but did not have funds on hand due to a problem with a state revenue sharing application.
Late summer rainstorms damaged the PVC pipe and washed some of it to sea. Repairs were made but more storms continued to muddy the water, and they couldn’t pump until the mud settled. Freezing temperatures cause slush to jam the line.
Ice started forming this week, forcing the shutdown.
The earlier water problems delayed the opening of school for five weeks. The school simply will not open unless it can operate its water and sewer system.
“You have to be able keep things hygienic,” said Eck, the superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. “That includes flush toilets as well as water for washing as well as for cooking, because we have to prepare meals.”
He is hoping that state or Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium officials will come up with a way to make more water in winter.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)