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Many missing after mudslide hits Washington state community

The death toll from a mudslide that swept through a US riverside community in northwestern Washington state has risen to eight. Rescuers are searching for survivors, with 18 people still unaccounted for.

Authorities said late Sunday four more bodies were discovered in the debris field of a mudslide in Snohomish County that has now killed eight people. The day's rescue efforts ended without finding any survivors.

"I am disappointed to tell you that after searching a very large area of that debris field on foot, we didn't find anybody alive. There was no sign of life," Travis Hots, chief of Snohomish County Fire districts 21 and 22, said during a press conference.

Eight people were killed and several injured on Saturday morning when the rain-soaked side of a mountain slammed into homes, a highway and the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River in the community of Oso, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Seattle. The slide covered around a square mile and left a field of debris, rock and mud up to 15 feet (5 meters) deep in some places.

Hots said the death toll was likely to grow, but that emergency crews were still in a "search and rescue mode. It has not gone to a recovery mode at this time."

Dangerous conditions

The deep, unstable mud field was still moving, making it extremely unsafe for rescue workers. Officials described it as "a big wall of mud and debris."

Because of the quicksand-like conditions at the site, rescue efforts were halted at dusk and are to begin again at dawn on Monday.

The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a pool of water behind the debris, prompting authorities concerned about downstream flooding to post an evacuation notice Saturday.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee flew over the site of the incident on Sunday.

"I have a sense we're going to have some hard news here," he told a news conference.

He added that "a full-scale, 100 percent, aggressive rescue effort" was underway, including helicopters and hovercrafts, and that a state of emergency had been declared.

"There's no missing piece of this rescue effort," Inslee said.

dr/av (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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