logo
Featured on 40:     Gas Tracker     Weather Discussion     40's Friends     Gas Tracker     Community Calendar    

Washington landslide kills 4, leaves 18 missing

A demolished house sits in the mud on Highway 530, Sunday, March 23, 2014 the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Wash. The slide of mud, trees and rocks happened about 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Several people – including an infant – were critically injured and at least six houses were destroyed. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)

A demolished house sits in the mud on Highway 530, Sunday, March 23, 2014 the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Wash. The slide of mud, trees and rocks happened about 11 a.m. Saturday morning. Several people – including an infant – were critically injured and at least six houses were destroyed. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)

Barbara Welsh, center, a mudslide victim whose husband is still missing, is comforted by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, following a news conference outside of the Arlington Police Department, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Arlington, Wash. Over a dozen people are unaccounted for after a massive mudslide killed at least three people and destroyed homes, according to authorities Sunday. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Jordan Stead) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; SEATTLE TIMES OUT; TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

In this aerial photo taken Saturday, March 23, 2014, a massive mudslide is shown in between the towns of Darrington, Wash., and Arlington, Wash. The slide killed at least three people and many people are still unaccounted for, and authorities said Sunday that searchers were flying over the one-square-mile mudslide in helicopters. (The Seattle Times, Marcus Yam) MANDATORY CREDIT TO: MARCUS YAM/THE SEATTLE TIMES

The orange X on a house, destroyed in the mud, indicates it has been searched for people on Highway 530, Sunday, March 23, 2014 the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Wash. Rescue crews searched into the night for survivors from a massive mudslide that killed at least three people, after hearing voices from the debris field pleading for help. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)

After spending the night at a Red Cross shelter, Reed Miller, 75, recounts the loss of his home in Oso, Wash., Sunday, March 23, 2014, at Post Middle School in Arlington, Wash. Miller was grocery shopping when he was alerted to the mudslide via a phone call. He said he still has not heard from his son. Over a dozen people are unaccounted for after a massive mudslide killed at least three people and destroyed homes, according to authorities Sunday. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Jordan Stead) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; SEATTLE TIMES OUT; TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Buy AP Photo Reprints

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Searchers found another body Sunday in the tangled sludge of a massive landslide in rural Washington state, bringing the death toll to at least four from the wall of debris that swept through a small riverside neighborhood.

At least 18 people remained missing, though authorities warned that number could grow. Late Saturday, rescuers could hear cries for help, but a day later, they heard nothing.

The 1-square-mile mudslide that struck Saturday morning also critically injured several people and destroyed about 30 homes.

Crews were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday evening. They found the body buried in the mud.

“We didn’t see or hear any signs of life out there today,” he said, adding that they did not search the entire debris field, only drier areas safe to traverse.

Despite that, Hots said crews were still in a “search and rescue mode. It has not gone to a recovery mode at this time.”

He said the search would continue until nightfall, at which time conditions become too dangerous.

Before crews could get onto the debris field late Sunday morning, they looked for signs of life by helicopter. Authorities initially said it was too dangerous to send rescuers out on foot.

Rescuers’ hopes of finding more survivors were buoyed late Saturday when they heard people yelling for help, but they were unable to reach anyone. The soupy mud was so thick and deep that searchers had to turn back.

“We have this huge square-mile mudflow that’s basically like quicksand,” Hots said Sunday.

The slide wiped through what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes — some nearly 100 years old.

As the search for the missing continued, authorities said some may have been able to get out on their own. The number unaccounted for could change because some people may have been in cars and on roads when the slide hit just before 11 a.m. Saturday, Hots said.

Officials described the mudslide as “a big wall of mud and debris.” It blocked about a mile of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported to be about 15 feet deep in some areas.

Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as “a square mile of total devastation” after flying over the disaster area midday Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones.

“There is a full scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now,” said Inslee, who proclaimed a state of emergency.

The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. With the water pooling behind the debris, authorities worried about downstream flooding and issued an evacuation notice Saturday. The water had begun to seep through the blockage Sunday afternoon, alleviating some concerns.

Snohomish County officials said Sunday that residents could return home during daylight hours. Even though the evacuation had been lifted, Inslee urged residents to remain alert.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Monday afternoon.

Shari Ireton, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish County sheriff’s office, said Sunday that a total of eight people were injured in the slide.

A 6-month-old boy and an 81-year-old man remained in critical condition Sunday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said two men, ages 37 and 58, were in serious condition, while a 25-year-old woman was upgraded to satisfactory condition.

Bruce Blacker, who lives just west of the slide, doesn’t know the whereabouts of six neighbors.

“It’s a very close knit community,” Blacker said as he waited at an Arlington roadblock before troopers let him through. There were almost 20 homes in the neighborhood that was destroyed, he said.

Search-and-rescue help came from around the region, including the Washington State Patrol and the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 100 were at the scene.

Evacuation shelters were set up at Post Middle School in Arlington and the Darrington Community Center.

Dane Williams, 30, who lives a few miles from the mudslide, spent Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter at the Arlington school.

He said he saw a few “pretty distraught” people at the shelter who didn’t know the fate of loved ones who live in the stricken area.

“It makes me want to cry,” Williams said Sunday.

___

Associated Press writer Phuong Le in Seattle contributed to this report.

Associated Press


Comments

WGGB encourages readers to share their thoughts and engage in healthy dialogue about the issues. Comments containing personal attacks, profanity, offensive language or advertising will be removed. Please use the report comment function for any posts you feel should be reviewed. Thank you.
blog comments powered by Disqus