Eighteen people remained unaccounted for Sunday, authorities say, after a massive mudslide in Washington state Saturday killed at least three people and forced evacuations because of fears of flooding.
But officials said that number is “fluid.”
The slide has blocked the north fork of the Stillaguamish River.
“The mudflow is moving, we have a massive amount of water that is beginning to back up and has backed up since this thing blocked the river,” said Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots.
Hots said the slide debris has the consistency of “quicksand” and rescuers can’t go back in until they get a better assessment of the conditions. Searchers had to turn back late Saturday after attempting a rescue in an area where signs of life were heard.
People downstream from the blockage were advised to evacuate Saturday night but the evacuation recommendation was lifted for daylight hours.
Director of Emergency Management John Pennington said the situation is a “disaster within a disaster.”
“We really have two disaster operations going — one that has occurred and the unique thing about this event is that there is another event that most likely can occur,” said Pennington.
Pennington asked that people continue to heed warnings.
“Treat this as if you would any large flood warning in Snohomish County,” he said. “We’re really good at this in this county; in this case it’s a very serious issue.”
Authorities are using helicopters, and plan to drop rescuers into areas if they find signs of life.
The slide has blocked about a mile of a state highway. Several people — including an infant — were critically injured and at least 16 homes were destroyed.
First responders in Snohomish County, Wash., called it the worst slide, the worst natural disaster, they’ve seen in decades.
Source: USA Today | KING-TV