At least eight people died and 108 others are missing after a mudslide over the weekend in Snohomish County, a rural area in northeastern Washington State, officials said Monday.
Eight bodies have been found the affected 1.5 sq. kilometer (0.58 sq. mile) zone, where houses and vehicles were buried under some five meters (16 feet) of earth and rocks following the mudslide on Saturday, a spokesman for the county police said.
John Pennington, the head of the Washington State emergency department, said that although the number of people unaccounted for after the disaster has risen drastically after the initial reports of 18 or so, the new information is still vague and does not necessarily mean that those people were all trapped in the mudslide.
County fire chief Travis Hots said at a press conference that after searching for more than a day, rescue crews have found nobody alive so far under the mud, adding that, while they remain hopeful that they will find survivors, probably the death toll will rise.
Emergency efforts had to be suspended on Sunday at nightfall because of the difficult working conditions in the mud-covered area.
Some of the rescue workers had sunk into the soft mud up to their shoulders and had to be pulled out using ropes attached to secure and stable sites.
The mudslide occurred on a slope in the Cascade Mountains near the Stillaguamish River, bringing mud, rocks and trees down the hillside, blocking the waterway and causing local flooding.
Traffic on the nearby highway was halted in both directions.
The mud carried away at least six houses in the small community of Oso, where about 200 people live and located 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Seattle. EFE