Mudslide rescue continues in Washington State; 108 remain missing

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Oso, WA, United States (4E) – Rescuers are struggling to find people missing at an area hit by a mudslide in the remote community of Oso in Washington state on Monday.

The Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management (SCDEM) counted 108 people who remain unaccounted for after an estimated 15 million cubic yards of mud and debris came down from a hillside above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and plowed through homes, other structures and state road 530 about 11 a.m. on Saturday night. Eight people were killed and seven were injured in the mudslide.

The missing may include people passing in the area at the time of the mudslide, according to SCDEM Director John Pennington.

Mud is covering about a square mile, including 35 traditionally built houses, 13 manufactured homes and recreational vehicles, a cabin and part of the Stillaguamish River. The also-blocked SR 530 cut off Darrington, a town of 1,350 east of Oso.

Heavy equipment could not yet be used to dig through the unstable muddy debris to avoid endangering crews, said Steve Thompson, the county’s public works director. Instead, rescuers spent the night searching the area where they will not sink from the mud, Marcus Deyering, spokesman for the Northwest Management Incident Team, said. A helicopter is also being used to probe the ground for heat signatures from people.

Cries for help coming from under the debris were heard by rescuers on late Saturday night. But Snohomish County executive John Lovick said voices were not heard Sunday night and Monday.

The mudslide is believed caused by softening of the hillside due to heavy rains in the area over the past month.

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