3 Dead, 18 Missing in Massive Wash. Mudslide

Search for people trapped continued overnight

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 23, 2014 6:53 AM CDT | Updated Mar 23, 2014 1:06 PM CDT

(Newser) – Three people were killed in a massive mudslide in Washington state yesterday, and rescuers were chasing voices of people thought to be trapped well into the dark, reports the Seattle Times. At least 18 people are now confirmed missing, adds CNN. The mudslide took out a highway near Oso, Wash., destroyed at least six homes, and partially blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River—prompting worries about flooding. "We have people who are yelling for help and we are going to take extreme risks," said Snohomish County fire chief Travis Hots last night. "This is a massive slide, and we are in a very, very fluid and unstable situation. This is still a rescue mission."

One victim described "a wall of mud” about 25 feet high that hit out of the blue, and then "we were rolling. The house was in sticks. We were buried under things, and we dug ourselves out." The river was rising 10 to 12 inches every half-hour, according to an emergency management official, and state officials were moving to close bridges downstream. "A river has got a lot of energy in it. When you’ve got a plug, the pressure is going to build up and it’s going to blow," says a state DOT spokesman. The Weather Service deemed "catastrophic flooding" unlikely, notes the AP, but people were warned to evacuate anyway.

A fatal mudslide brought debris down the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014, stopping the flow of the river and destroying several homes.   (AP Photo/The Herald, Genna Martin)
A fatal mudslide brought debris down the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014, stopping the flow of the river and destroying several homes.   (AP Photo/The Herald, Genna Martin)
Crushed woody debris and a slurry of silt laden water is nearly at a stand still in the North Fork of the Stillaguamish river just a few miles downstream of the landslide that blocked the river Saturday...   (AP Photo/ The Seattle Times,Mark Harrison)
First responders gather inside the Oso Fire Department after a fatal mudslide washed over Highway 530 and the surrounding area just east of Oso, Saturday, March 22, 2014.   (AP Photo /The Daily Herald, Annie Mulligan)
Neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department for updates about the fatal mudslide that washed over homes and Highway 530 east of Oso, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014.   (AP Photo /The Daily Herald, Annie Mulligan)
Neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department for updates about the fatal mudslide that washed over homes and Highway 530 east of Oso, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014.   (Associated Press)
Neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department for updates about the mudslide that washed over homes and Highway 530 east of Oso, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014.   (AP Photo /The Daily Herald, Annie Mulligan)
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