US landslide death toll doubles to 8
By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP (AP)
March 24, 2014, 2:39 pm TWN
ARLINGTON, Washington (AP) — Searchers found five more bodies Sunday in the sludge of a massive landslide in the northwestern state of Washington, bringing the death toll to at least eight from the wall of debris that swept through a small riverside neighborhood.
Four more bodies were discovered late Sunday, said Snohomish County sheriff's Lt. Rob Palmer said. Earlier in the day, authorities said one body had been found on the debris field. Three people were already confirmed dead on Saturday.
More people remained missing, and authorities said the number was "fluid." Earlier Sunday, they said it was at least 18, but that count came before additional bodies were discovered.
The mudslide that struck Saturday morning also critically injured several people and destroyed about 30 homes.
Crews were able to get out to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists few over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday evening.
"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," he 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."
Searchers continued looking into the night Sunday.
Several people, including an infant, were critically injured in the mudslide that hit Saturday morning about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Seattle. About 30 homes were destroyed.
Rescuers' hopes of finding more survivors had been buoyed late Saturday when they heard people yelling for help from within the debris field, but they were unable to reach anyone. The mud was so thick and deep that searchers had to turn back.
The slide wiped through what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes — some nearly 100 years old.
Some of the missing may have been able to get out on their own, authorities said. The number unaccounted for could change because some people may have been in cars and on roads when the slide hit, Hots said.