Officials at the massive mudslide on SR 530 said this morning they have reports of 108 missing and unaccounted-for individuals as a result of the disaster.
John Pennington, who heads the county’s Department of Emergency Management, quickly added that the reports are vague and insists the number of victims will not be nearly that large. He called 108 a “soft number.”
Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said “the situation is very grim.”
“We are still holding out hope we are going to find people alive. We are still in a rescue mode,” Hots added.
Today’s operation at the site will include the use of aircraft, search dogs and technical teams to “probe the ground.” The search has been difficult due to the consistency of the mud, which has caused rescuers to sink. Rescuers are digging through muddy debris that is 20 feet or more deep in some areas.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, speaking at the same Arlington news conference as Hots and Pennington, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies are ready to assist as well.
Going into detail about the slide site, Pennington said there are 59 vacant lots in the slide area, and another 49 lots had some sort of structure — meaning a house, a cabin or some type of possible dwelling. Of all of the structures, 25 were likely occupied full-time.
Pennington said that because the slide happened on a Saturday, more people likely were at home, not at work.
Pennington asked anyone with information about possible victims to call 425-388-5088.
The massive slide is now reported at 15 million cubic yards of of mud and debris, said Steve Thompson, the county’s public works director. The mudslide came down from a hillside above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, crossed over it, plowed through homes and other structures and onto SR 530 about 11 a.m. Saturday, flattening everything in its path.
He said the county isn’t moving any heavy equipment to the site at this point, not wanting to endanger the crews.
Marcus Deyering, spokesman for the Northwest Management Incident Team, said that crews using heavy-duty lights spent the night searching the area where it was safe to search.
The names of the confirmed dead or the missing have not been released by officials, although some survivors or the families of the missing have talked to the media and provided names.
Officials at this morning’s news conference looked tired and weary as they spoke to reporters outside the Arlington Police Department.
“This is a large-scale disaster,” said Pennington.
A large section of the river, which was covered by the slide, is stabilizing, said Thompson, the county public works director.
“Mother Nature is doing a good job of re-carving that (river) channel,” he said, and downstream the river is getting back to “semi-normal levels.”
Some of the survivors of the disaster were taken to hospitals. Here are five who were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle::
— A woman, 25, is in satisfactory condition.
— A 6-month-old boy remains in critical condition in intensive care.
— A man 37, is in serious condition and is in the intensive care unit
— A man, 58, is in serious condition and in the intensive care unit.
— An 81-year-old man is in critical condition and in the intensive care unit.