A powerful mudslide north of Seattle spilled the splintered remains of at least six houses across a river and onto a rural highway Saturday morning, killing at least three people and injuring several others.
Authorities said at least seven adults and a 6-six-month-old have been taken to local hospitals, Snohomish County spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. At Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington, four patients who arrived by ambulance remained hospitalized with their status undetermined as of 3:45 p.m. A patient who had arrived two hours earlier was treated and released, spokeswoman Jennifer Egger told The Los Angeles Times.
Emergency responders from the U.S. Navy, fire departments and law enforcement agencies across the region were searching for additional victims and clearing debris, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Rodney Rochon told The Los Angeles Times.
The mudslide, which happened at about 10:45 a.m., was estimated to be at least 45-by-60 yards, officials said. Traffic was being stopped on the west side of the slide.
The homes destroyed were in a community north of the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Wash., north of Seattle. Satellite images taken before the slide show about 20 structures in the area between the cities of Darrington and Arlington. Snohomish County officials said they were asking some residents along the river to voluntarily evacuate.
Debris in the river had created a dam, creating the potential for flooding. On State Route 530 near Whitman Road, photos taken from the scene and posted on social media show muddy wreckage blocking the two-lane highway.
The National Weather Service had warned last week of possible minor flooding of the Stillaguamish, which runs alongside State Route 530 in the area. A statement from the county attributed the mudslide to heavy rain in the last month.
Saturday's forecast called for a slight chance of showers with overcast conditions shrouding some of the snow-covered mountains in the area.
The Washington State Department of Transportation said its geology experts were flying to Oso to advise county crews.