A combination of groundwater saturation and heavy rainfall caused a deadly landslide on Saturday in the towns of Oso and Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington, north of Seattle. As of early Monday morning, eight people have been confirmed dead and seven others injured. More than a dozen people are still unaccounted for.
“Total devastation. I mean, it’s just unbelievable. It reminds me of what a tornado looks like when it’s touched the ground,” explained Ty Trenary, the local sheriff.
After the landslide struck the towns on Saturday morning, rescuers have been searching nonstop for people among the debris. The slide is estimated to be roughly a square mile in size and up to 15 feet deep in some places.
Immediately after the slide, rescue workers reportedly heard survivors crying for help under the debris but were unable to reach them due to the depth and thickness of the mud. Several sections of the slide are still too dangerous for rescue workers; however, many are hopeful that more survivors will be found.
Between the two affected towns, six houses were completely destroyed and 16 others were damaged. Flooding remains a concern as the slide traveled across the Stillaguamish River, which is now blocked by mud and debris.
UPDATE, March 25, 2014:
On Monday, rescuers uncovered six more bodies in the slide debris, bringing the death toll to 14. John Pennington, the Snohomish County Emergency Management Director, announced Monday evening that the missing persons list had also grown from 108 to 176. That number is expected to drop as many are likely duplicates.