Searchers pulled more bodies from a soupy mixture of muck and debris after a massive mudslide over the weekend smashed through a community in rural Washington state.
Tod Gates, an incident commander quoted by The Seattle Times, said he and other rescuers had flown in helicopters over the wreckage, where they spotted four bodies on Sunday, adding to four others found the day before.
NPR’s Martin Kaste, reporting from Seattle, says an estimated one million cubic yards of soil clogged the narrow river valley.
The new find dimmed hopes of finding anyone alive after the 20-foot wall of mud inundated the western Washington community near the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, destroying dozens of homes.
“We didn’t see or hear any signs of life out there today,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said. “It’s very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene.”
On Sunday, officials said there were at least 18 people trapped in the mud and the Times says more casualties were likely to rise, as the slide had destroyed 30 or more homes and a mile-long stretch of Highway 530.
Officials believe that recent heavy rainfall made the ground unstable, triggering the mudslide.
“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 proclaimed a state of emergency.”