Most residents of eroding Alaska village vote to relocate

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A whaling boat is seen out on the frozen Arctic Ocean June 7, 2006. The flag in the middle of the boat signals that the whaling crew successfully captured a bowhead whale during the spring hunting season. The crew of the boat will bring the boat ashore before the Apugauti feast when they share the meat from the recent catch with the entire community. Whaling plays a central role in the Inupiat Eskimo culture. Every spring, whaling crews head out onto the thawing ice to catch a bowhead whale. If a whaling captain and his crew are successful, they are expected to share the meat with the entire community at a series of celebrations over the next few weeks. Picture taken June 7, 2006. To match feature ENVIRONMENT ALASKA WHALING   REUTERS/Daisuke Wakabayashi - RTR1ENL5

A whaling boat is seen out on the frozen Arctic Ocean June 7, 2006. Photo by Daisuke Wakabayashi/Reuters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Unofficial ballot returns show a majority of voters in one of Alaska’s most eroded communities want to move to safer ground from their tiny island home.

The Inupiat Eskimo village of Shishmaref held a special election Tuesday asking residents if they should develop a new community at a nearby mainland location or stay put with added environmental protections.

The city clerk says the unofficial count is 89 in favor of moving and 78 voting to stay. She says that count does not include absentee or special needs ballots.

The vote is essentially advisory because either scenario would cost millions — money the impoverished community of nearly 600 people doesn’t have. The village 600 miles northwest of Anchorage ultimately will have to search for funding to make the choice a reality.

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