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Washington landslide: 4 dead, at least 18 missing

Fri09212018

Last update19:08:43 UTC 2018


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Washington landslide: 4 dead, at least 18 missing

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Authorities in rural Washington worked feverishly Sunday to find survivors after a landslide tore through the area north of Seattle, killing four people and injuring seven. At least 18 people remained unaccounted for, a fire chief said.

 

"Total devastation. I mean, it's just unbelievable. It reminds me of what a tornado looks like when it's touched the ground," the sheriff of Snohomish County, Washington said.

 

The Saturday landslide, which encompassed about one square mile, was caused by groundwater saturation tied to heavy rainfall in the area over the past month.

 

Trenary said rescue crews were working both sides of the slide. Authorities were also using helicopters to try to identify heat signatures, or people who may have been able to get free, he said.  But such work is complicated.

 

While there's a tremendous effort to rescue people who may be trapped, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday that the rescue operation must be focused on keeping responders safe because the area is highly unstable.

 

The mud flow is like quicksand, he said. Responders suspect there are survivors, but it is "far too dangerous" to get rescuers to those people. The landslide is 15 feet deep in some places.

 

On Saturday rescuers dug through the rubble while survivors were crying for help underneath the debris, Hots told reporters. Rescuers heard voices around 11:30 p.m. and considered trying to reach the possible survivor or survivors, but "the mud was too thick and deep," he said, and rescuers had to back off.

 

IAt least six houses were destroyed in the landslide, and as many as 16 were damaged, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said.

 

The landslide affected the towns of Oso, a remote community of about 180, and Darrington, a town of about 1,350 people. The landslide cut off State Road 530 to Darrington. Part of the Stillaguamish River also was blocked, and residents were warned of possible flooding both upstream and downstream of the collapse.

 

Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters and state troopers heard calls for help, trooper Mark Francis said.

 

The Snohomish sheriff warned people to stay clear of trestles or bridges anywhere near the Stillaguamish River downstream of the slide.

 

"Water could break through at any moment," the sheriff's office tweeted.

 

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