SEATTLE (AP) — A massive landslide of mud, trees and rocks in rural Washington killed three people on Saturday, critically injured an infant and several others, and destroyed six houses, authorities said.
The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, which prompted an evacuation notice because water was rising rapidly behind the debris. Authorities worried about severe downstream flooding if water suddenly broke through the blockage.
The landslide also completely covered State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was at least 135 feet wide and 180 feet deep and hit just before 11 a.m., Snohomish County authorities said.
Initially, the Snohomish County sheriff’s office reported that two people had been killed in the landslide. Authorities said later that one of the people who was rescued died at a hospital.
The injured included a 6-month-old boy, who was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said two other victims were in critical condition — an 81-year-old man and a 58-year-old man — while a 37-year-old man was in serious condition. Gregg said Harborview had one other male patient from the landslide, but no information on his condition was available.
The Washington Department of Transportation says mud, trees and building materials are blocking both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso.
Trooper Mark Francis said the mudslide, which happened just before 11 a.m. about 55 miles north of Seattle, is estimated to be a mile long.
Heavy rain over this past week likely contributed to the mudslide. Saturday’s weather was sunny and clear.
The Daily Herald reported that as of 1 p.m., officials were moving rescuers back from the scene, citing concerns of the North Fork Stilliguamish River rising because of the mudslide.
“Initial reports were that a house was stuck in the slide, and someone was calling for help inside,” Francis said.
Reports of more houses involved in the slide could not be immediately confirmed.
Search-and-rescue operations are underway by Snohomish County crews and the Washington State Patrol.
Spokesman Bart Treece of the Washington State Department of Transportation said he doesn’t know how long the two-lane rural road will be closed. Drivers are advised to find another way to get between Darrington and Arlington, he said.
“We’re standing by ready to help out where we can,” Treece said.
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