Washington Mudslide Leaves Eight Dead; 100 More Feared Missing

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Authorities are searching for bodies after a massive mudslide in Washington State killed at least eight people and possibly left more than 100 missing.

A 1-square-mile mudslide struck Saturday morning in Snohomish County, critically injuring several people and destroying about 30 several homes.

John Pennington, emergency response managing director, said there are reports of up to 108 missing in the mudslide but noted that this is unconfirmed.

Eight bodies have been pulled from the scene so far and authorities described the search for additional survivors of the mudslide to be "grim."

"This is a large scale disaster event," Pennington told the media.

"We have 108 individual names, or likeness ... It’s a soft 108."

"It was Saturday and probably a higher number than what you would see on a week day," he said of the victims during a press conference Monday.

It is not clear how many structures were impacted thus far.

Crews were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said, adding that they did not search the entire field.

"It's very disappointing to all emergency responders."

Before crews could get onto the debris field, they looked for signs of life by helicopter. Authorities initially said it was too dangerous to send rescuers out on foot.

Rescuers' hopes of finding more survivors were buoyed late Saturday when they heard people yelling for help, but they were unable to reach anyone.

The mud was so thick, 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, with devastating speed.

Officials described the mudslide as "a big wall of mud and debris." It blocked about a mile of State Route 530 nea Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle.

It was reported to be about 15 feet deep in some areas. Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the whole scene as "a square mile of total devastation" after flying over the disaster area midday Sunday.

He assured families that everything was being done.

"There is a full scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now," said Inslee, who proclaimed a state of emergency.

With the water continually pooling behind the debris, authorities worried about downstream flooding and issued an evacuation notice Saturday.

The water had begun to seep through the blockage on Sunday, officials say, as the mudslide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Snohomish County officials said Sunday that residents could return home during daylight hours, with the evacuation had been lifted as of this report.

As the recovery effort continues, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Monday afternoon.

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