US & Canada

Washington state landslide: Hopes fade of finding survivors

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Media captionA large rescue operation is under way following Saturday's landslide, as David Willis reports

The search for victims of a huge landslide in the north-western US state of Washington, which has claimed at least eight lives, is in its third day.

A dozen or so people are thought to remain unaccounted for in the 54m (177ft) deep wall of mud near the town of Oso.

Search crews have worked day and night, employing helicopters in the dangerous conditions which destroyed 30 homes.

Several people, including an infant, were critically injured.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there," local fire chief Travis Hots said of the disaster scene, which is about 90km (55 miles) north of Seattle.

"It's very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene."

'Gone in three seconds'

Authorities have continued their search-and-rescue operations amid a tangled debris field that Washington Governor Jay Inslee labelled "a square mile of total devastation".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The landslide is said to have destroyed 30 homes in the area
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The authorities say the landslide was caused by recent heavy rain
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dangerous conditions are hampering the rescue effort
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The thick mud covered a square mile

An 81-year-old man and a six-month-old boy were said to be in critical condition at a Seattle hospital on Sunday.

An eyewitness told the Daily Herald that he was driving on the road near Oso and had to quickly brake to avoid the mudslide.

"I just saw the darkness coming across the road. Everything was gone in three seconds,'' Paulo Falcao told the newspaper.

Robin Youngblood, another witness, told the Seattle Times: "All of a sudden there was a wall of mud. Then it hit and we were rolling.

"The house was in sticks. We were buried under things, and we dug ourselves out."

The landslide cut off the city of Darrington and clogged the north fork of the Stillaguamish River.

This prompted fears of severe flooding downstream if the build-up of water behind the debris breaks through suddenly.

The authorities say the landslide was caused by recent heavy rain.

The area has had problems in the past with unstable land.

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