WATCH: 18 People Still Unaccounted for After Deadly Mudslide in Washington State

Eighteen people were still unaccounted for Sunday in the wake of a mudslide that killed three and injured eight others in Washington State, officials said Sunday — as fears were raised of more disastrous flooding.

The number of missing people in the square mile mudslide that washed over Snohomish County would be “fluid,” said Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots during a news conference Sunday.

“We suspect that there are people out there but it’s extremely dangerous to get responders out on that mud-flow,” Sots said. The slide that occurred around 11 a.m. (2 ET) Saturday had turned land that spanned neighborhoods into “quicksand,” Hots added.

The mud is up to 15 feet deep in places, according to the Snohomish County Government, making some search techniques impossible to employ. “Thermal imaging cameras are generally effective on a surface area, if someone’s buried that won’t be effective,” Hots said.

On Saturday night, search teams heard people yelling from a home in the path of the slide, but a rescue operation “was not successful.”

“The mud was just too thick and deep,” Hots said.

Rescuers who tried to reach affected homes on Saturday “got dragged in up to their armpits and had to be dragged out by ropes themselves,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee during a briefing Sunday.

Two helicopters were deployed to scour the area for victims, in hopes that rescuers would be able to trudge through the hazardous conditions to free them, Hots said.

Another risk to the 100 rescuers was the potential overflow of the Stillaguamish River, which has been blocked by the slide and was rising 10-12 inches every half hour, said John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

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SOURCE: ELISHA FIELDSTADT
NBC News

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