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Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:23PM
A massive landslide of dirt, trees and rocks in rural Washington killed three people on Saturday, critically injured an infant and several others, and destroyed six houses.

A massive landslide of dirt, trees and rocks in rural Washington killed three people on Saturday, critically injured an infant and several others, and destroyed six houses.

Three people died and at least eight others were injured on Saturday in a landslide that destroyed six or more homes along a state highway in the US state of Washington, officials said.

Mud, possibly produced by recent heavy rain, slid across part of State Route 530 near Oso, Washington, north of Seattle, Washington state trooper Mark Francis said.

The three deaths were confirmed by the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office. Eight people were rescued and were being treated at area hospitals and at least six houses were destroyed, the sheriff's office said in a statement.

Rescuers searching the area 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.

Francis said the slide was in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains where rains have been heavy lately.

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. The highway was closed in both directions.

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.

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. Chicago Tribune

AHT/DDB