24 Mar 2014

Eight killed in Washington state slip

5:24 pm on 24 March 2014

Eight people have been killed and 18 people are missing after a landslide in Washington state that buried homes and cars under mud and debris up to five metres deep.

Eight people were also injured when rain-soaked embankments along State Route 530 near Oso, about 90km north-east of Seattle, gave way and washed out at least six homes on Saturday.

The disaster has left a 2.6 square kilometres of tangled debris, rocks, trees and mud, Reuters reports.

Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said the tally of missing was likely to grow. The rescue mission was to halt at dusk because of treacherous, quicksand-like conditions and would resume at dawn on Monday, he said.

Some rescue workers had been mired in mud up to their armpits and had to be dragged to safety, authorities said.

The slide in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains blocked the flow of the Stillaguamish River, creating floods and a backup of water behind a natural dam of mud and debris, but the threat to people down river had begun to ease.

Washington state Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen on Saturday evening declared a state of emergency in Snohomish County.