The search for survivors continued on Monday after searchers reported hearing screams on Saturday of those who were most likely trapped just after a massive mudslide took out nearly 30 homes, and the lives of eight people.
Sunday, 18 people were still unaccounted for, but search teams could not get into the “quicksand” like mud to try to search on the ground, so search crews scoured the area from the air. However, as of this morning, air and ground crews are still hoping to find survivors in the destruction but fairly certain there will be more casualties.
After geologists flew over the disaster area via helicopter, they were able to determine that it was safe enough for ground crews to search the muddy, tree-strewn area for possible survivors, Travis Hots, chief of Snohomish County Fire District 21, told reporters Sunday.
“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.
The massive mudslide that engulfed State Route 530, a rural enclave about an hour north of Seattle, has concerned officials as to further survivors: “there may be people in their cars. There may be people in their homes,” said Hots.
Crews are hoping that many more of the missing people turn up at shelters, at friends homes or have fled the area, however, many officials fear that they could have been trapped and could not be saved.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as “a square mile of total devastation” after flying over the disaster area midday Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones.
“There is a full scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now,” said Inslee, who called this disaster a “state of emergency.”
“I get a sense we’re going to have some hard news here,” Inslee added.
Some of the victims are still struggling for their lives at a local hospital, most in critical condition and one has died. “Basically, the people were swept away, pinned up against things, covered,” Harborview spokeswoman Elizabeth Hunter told The LA Times, adding that most of the mudslide victims suffered “crushing injuries.”
The American Red Cross set up operations at a local hospital, and evacuation shelters were created at a middle school and community center.
“This is the worst thing that’s ever happened in our community,” Trudy LaDouceur of the Darrington Fire District told the Daily Herald. “For all of us, even though we’re small between Arlington and Darrington, we’re all connected, we’re all neighbors. We’ve all lost people today.”
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