As many as 108 people could be missing after a March 22 landslide killed at least eight people, injured seven and destroyed about 30 homes, authorities said on Monday March 24.
Rescue efforts were continuing after a piece of rain-saturated hillside slid down about 55 miles north of Seattle, according to the Los Angeles Times and other media. The “big wall of mud and debris” blocked State Route 530, The New York Daily News reported, and dammed the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.
With quicksand-texture, soupy mudflow reaching depths of 15 feet in some places, rescuers were hampered by bad weather, unstable ground and potential flooding, said Ty Trenary, sheriff of Snohomish County, Washington, to CNN. Governor Jay Inslee on declared a state of emergency and cautioned residents to evacuate and stay away from the area after the Saturday March 22 landslide. Though residents were allowed back in the next day, they were cautioned to be on alert, the Associated Press said.
“The situation along the Stillaguamish River is extremely dangerous,” he said in a statement, expressing condolences as well. “Anyone along the flood plain of the Stillaguamish between Oso and Stanwood should leave the area before dark due to risk of catastrophic flooding. I urge everyone to follow guidance from local officials who are strongly encouraging evacuation to higher ground.”
Flash flood warnings were also in effect through Monday afternoon.
The list of missing had risen from an initial estimate of 18 to 108, the Associated Press reported, but authorities said the number was an estimate, since it was a compilation of various lists.
“It’s a soft 108,” said Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington at a news conference, according to AP. Those caught up in the raging torrent most likely included construction workers who were working in the area and people who happened to be driving by, AP said.
The landslide comes almost a year to the day after one on Whidbey Island, in what was originally Skagit and Snohomish territory, in March 2013.