Rescuers searching a Washington state community devastated by a deadly mudslide said Saturday night that they had heard signs of life coming from the debris and would continue searching even as the danger of flooding rose.
“We’ll be here all night long doing what we can to rescue people,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said.
Trenary, speaking at a televised news conference, did not specify what kinds of sounds had been detected. He said the search had been made difficult by the sheer devastation to the area about 40 miles north of Seattle. At least three people were killed and six homes destroyed.
“There’s nothing left in the area,” he said.
The mudslide hit about 10:45 a.m. Saturday near the community of Oso.
John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, said the region has a history of slides, including a powerful one in 2006. But there was no advance warning of Saturday’s disaster.
“This slide came out of nowhere,” he said.
Debris and mud let loose by the slide have created a dam on the Stillaguamish River, and water continues to collect behind it. Authorities called on people living downriver, from Oso to Arlington, to evacuate Saturday night.
“Although this is still a rescue operation, it’s a preparedness operation,” Pennington said. He urged people living near the river to seek shelter.
Pennington said that water had been rising behind the dam 10 to 12 inches every half hour, making flooding inevitable.
“That water is going to break loose,” he said.