Rescuers managed to found five more bodies among numerous debris on Sunday two days after a massive landslide in rural Washington state, bringing the death toll to at least eight.
Snohomish County sheriff’s Lt. Rob Palmer reported that four more bodies were discovered late Sunday. Earlier in the day, it’s beome known one body had been found at the place. Three people were already confirmed dead on Saturday.
“We didn’t find anybody alive. There was no sign of life” after a search of much of the area on foot, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots told a news conference on Sunday, adding that the tally of missing was likely to grow.
A press briefing was slated for 9 a.m. PDT on Monday.
“I have a sense that we’re going to have some hard news here,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said after flying over the affected area on Sunday.
At the moment about 20 people are still reported missing with local authorities claiming that the number was “fluid.” Earlier Sunday, they said it was at least 18, but that count came before additional bodies were discovered.
The 1-square-mile mudslide that struck Saturday morning also critically injured several people and destroyed about 30 homes.
Rescue workers were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter to determine that the situation was stable enough for emergency responders and technical personnel to search for possible survivors.
“We didn’t see or hear any signs of life out there today,” Holts 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.”
Rescuers’ hopes of finding more survivors were buoyed yesterday as they heard people asking 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 Sunday.
Officials described the mudslide as “a big wall of mud and debris.” It blocked about a mile of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported to be about 15 feet deep in some areas.
The terrible slide was supposedly caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as “a square mile of total devastation” after arriving at the scene. 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.
Dane Williams, a local resident, spent Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter at the Arlington school. He revealed to reporters that he saw a few “pretty distraught” people at the shelter who didn’t know the fate of loved ones who live in the stricken area.
“It makes me want to cry,” Williams said Sunday.