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Rescue operations resume at Washington mudslide; at least 8 dead

SEATTLE — Rescue teams resumed scouring the wreckage of a deadly mudslide Monday morning that has claimed at least eight lives, hoping to find survivors in the swath of destruction but fearing there will be more casualties.

Although an estimated 30 homes were destroyed when a wall of mud crashed down over State Route 530 in a rural enclave about an hour north of Seattle, "there may be people in their cars. There may be people in their homes," Travis Hots, chief of Snohomish County Fire District 21, told reporters Sunday.

Late Sunday night, officials confirmed that the death toll of Saturday morning's mudslide in the tiny town of Oso along the Stillaguamish River had risen to eight. About 18 people were still believed missing, although authorities warned that the number was "fluid."

Although it's common during the confusion after disasters for missing people to turn up OK, officials fear the death toll from the mudslide could continue to rise.

“I get a sense we’re going to have some hard news here," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday afternoon.

At least 12 victims were hospitalized Saturday — one of whom died — and seven remained hospitalized Sunday afternoon, including five in serious condition or worse, hospital officials told the Los Angeles Times.

Among the victims was a 6-month-old boy who was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after being the first victim flown from the disaster site.

“Basically, the people were swept away, pinned up against things, covered,” Harborview spokeswoman Elizabeth Hunter told The Times, adding that most of the mudslide victims suffered “crushing injuries.”

The area hit by the mudslide has been the site of similar disasters, including a major flood in 1933 and slides in 1967 and 2006, according to published reports. In fact, the same hill that gave way over the weekend was the site of a mudslide just eight years ago.

"This is the very same mass of rock and dirt," Tim Walsh, geologic hazards chief for the Washington state Dept. of Natural Resources, told the Seattle Times.

"It just moved again," he said. "Landslides often occur in the same place over and over."

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maria.laganga@latimes.com

 

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