Washington mudslide search teams fail to reach survivors calling for help, with up to 108 people feared dead

Hope fades as work continues into night, with officials saying: “There may be people in their cars, there may be people in houses”

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The Independent US

More than 100 people have been reported missing after a mudslide in Washington state last weekend.

Snohomish County’s emergency management director said authorities had listed 108 names, and noted: “We have not found anyone alive since Saturday.”

At first light on Sunday teams worked both from helicopters and on the ground in attempts to find any who might still be alive, but hopes were fading as crews pushed on late into Monday morning.

The incident has seen the near-total destruction of a former fishing village around 55 miles (90km) north of Seattle, as the collapse of a large swathe of hillside on Saturday morning brought mud, rocks and trees down and across a road.

Around 30 homes are now believed to have been destroyed, and the death toll currently stands at eight people.

“We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today,” said Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots. “It's very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene.”

Workers had hoped to reach more survivors yesterday after cries for help were heard the night before, but with the mud “like quicksand” and 15 feet (4.5m) deep in places, conditions were too dangerous to continue.

Geologists were able to declare the site safe to continue searching on Sunday, and five bodies were pulled from the rubble. More people remained missing, Hots said, having earlier reported that as many as 18 were unaccounted for.

Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.

Bruce Blacker, who lives just west of the slide, doesn't know the whereabouts of six neighbours. “It's a very close knit community,” he said as he waited for troopers to let him through a roadblock.

Hots said searchers would continue their efforts through the difficult debris field, saying: “There may be people in their cars, there may be people in houses.”

The huge chunk of earth dammed part of the Stillaguamish River, prompting Washington state Governor Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency and issue an evacuation notice for residents in the area.

He described the scene of the slide itself as “a square mile of total devastation” after flying over the disaster area Sunday.