A destroyed house sits in muddy debris near Oso, Wash., on Sunday. A rain-soaked hillside let loose a wall of mud Saturday, inundating neighborhoods along the Stillaguamish River’s North Fork. Lindsey Wasson/AP
Searchers pulled more bodies from a soupy mixture of muck and debris, bringing the death toll to eight, after a massive mudslide over the weekend smashed through a community in rural western Washington state.
More than a dozen people were still missing.
Tod Gates, an incident commander quoted by The Seattle Times, says he and other rescuers had used helicopters to fly over the wreckage, where they spotted four bodies Sunday, adding to four others found the day before.
NPR’s Martin Kaste, reporting from Seattle, says an estimated 1 million cubic yards of soil clogged the narrow river valley east of Interstate 5 about 50 miles north of Seattle.
The new find dimmed hopes of finding anyone alive after a 20-foot wall of mud inundated neighborhoods near the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, destroying dozens of homes.
“We didn’t see or hear any signs of life out there today,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said. “It’s very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene.”
On Sunday, officials said there were at least 18 people trapped in the mud. The Times says more casualties are likely, as the slide destroyed 30 or more homes and a mile-long stretch of Highway 530.
Officials think recent heavy rainfall made the ground unstable, triggering the mudslide.
KIRO TV reports:
“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.”