Big Picture

Alaskan village at risk of sinking

Yupik children playing in the grass late in the evening in the village of Newtok in Alaska.

The small village along the Ninglick River sits on increasingly unstable land affected by erosion and melting permafrost. To escape the predicted collapse of the village site, residents will soon have to relocate to more stable ground.

Newtok, with a population of about 375 ethnically Yupik people, was founded in 1959, but the Yupik have lived on the coastal lands along the Bering Sea for thousands of years.

Today, as global temperatures rise, Newtok and other remote Alaskan villages such as Koyukuk, Shishmaref and Kivalina are threatened by melting permafrost, widening rivers, coastal erosion and storms that blow in from the sea.

A recent US geological survey confirmed that Alaska's remote northern coast has some of the world's highest shoreline erosion rates.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the highest point in Newtok- the school - could be underwater by 2017. A new village site called Mertarvik was established some 15km away, but families have been slow to move, said The Atlantic.

Photographer Andrew Burton spent several days in Newtok recently, documenting the threatened remote village.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Alaskan village at risk of sinking'. Print Edition | Subscribe