Around 18 People Missing in Washington Mudslide That Kills at Least Three

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 23 2014 2:49 PM

Around 18 People Missing in Washington Mudslide That Kills at Least Three

Rescue workers said Sunday they estimate some 18 people are still unaccounted for  after a massive mudslide in rural northwest Washington destroyed an entire neighborhood and killed at least three people. In a dramatic press conference, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said that even though they suspect people are trapped there is little rescue workers can do because the mud flow has the consistency of quicksand. As many as 30 homes were destroyed when a hillside soaked with rain collapsed Saturday morning, reports the Seattle Times. The number of missing people could increase because there could have been cars on the road at the time that were swept away by the mudslide.

So far, six adults and a 6-month-old boy were rescued and sent to local hospitals. At least three of the injured were in critical condition Saturday night, reports CNN. For now, rescue workers are only entering the mudslide if aerial crews see evidence of survivors. But even then, there is no guarantee they’ll be able to get to them. On Saturday, rescue workers tried to reach an area where they heard voices crying for help but once they got closer they turned around after not hearing any more signs of life. “There were signs of life in a buried structure. We were not able to get there, and when we were able to get close, they could not longer hear anything so they backed out,” Hots explained.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.