Search for missing continues
ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) – Searchers found another body today 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 neighbourhood.
At least 18 people remained missing, though authorities warned that number could grow. Late yesterday, rescuers heard cries for help, and a day later, they heard nothing.
The one-square-mile mudslide that struck yesterday 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 this 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 this 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 yesterday 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 today.
The slide wiped through what neighbours described as a former fishing village of small homes – some nearly 100 years old.