OSO, Wash. (AP) -- Three people are dead and at least eight others injured in a Washington landslide that wiped out at least six homes and spilled onto State Route 530 in rural Snohomish County Saturday.
The county medical examiner was working to identify the victims of the landslide that was first reported around 10:45 a.m. in the 29400 block of the highway near the town of Oso between Arlington and Darrington, according to the county sheriff's office.
At least five adults and a 6-month-old child were taken to nearby hospitals.
The 135-foot-wide and 180-foot-deep landslide was believed to be caused by ground water saturation from heavy rainfall in the area over the past month. The town of Darrington was completely cut off. Drivers were asked to avoid the area.
A helicopter with the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office was taking victims to the hospital as crews continued to search for more possible victims. Spokesman Bart Treece of the Washington State Department of Transportation said he didn't know how long the two-lane rural road would be closed.
"We're standing by ready to help out where we can," Treece said.
Authorities were urging those who live near the North Fork of the Stilahuamish River to evacuate before nightfall. The deadly landslide that blocked the river now poses the threat of a catastrophic flood.
Just after 2 p.m., the National Weather Service said the river gauge downstream of the slide showed a 2.2-foot drop in an hour, confirming the river was blocked by slide.
"We are asking residents to prepare their homes, pets, livestock, etc. for immediate evacuation if and when it becomes necessary," said Bronlea Mishler, Deputy Director of Communications.
Geologists were called out to determine how stable the area is.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a tweet Saturday that an emergency operations center was activated for the Oso mudslide to support the "very dangerous situation."
The @waEMD emergency ops center has been activated for Oso mudslide to support strong local response to still very dangerous situation.— Governor Inslee (@GovInslee) March 22, 2014
It has been officially confirmed that we have two fatalities at the #530slide, id of the victims pending from the Medical Examiner— Snohomish Sheriff (@SnoCoSheriff) March 22, 2014
Another pic of the slide pic.twitter.com/rT9g6yzuZM— Trooper Mark Francis (@wspd7pio) March 22, 2014
Overview of scene and terrain pic.twitter.com/xiHAjzujTK— Trooper Mark Francis (@wspd7pio) March 22, 2014