A devastating landslide tore through a lush, rain-soaked mountainside in southeast Alaska, claiming three lives, injuring a woman, and leaving three others missing. The landslide struck three houses in a secluded fishing town, officials reported on Tuesday.
Initial search efforts led to the tragic discovery of a young girl’s body. Later on Tuesday, a drone pilot located two more adult victims, as confirmed by the Alaska Department of Public Safety. To find the two children and one adult still missing, search teams deployed a cadaver dog and heat-detecting drones. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard and other boats scoured the nearby ocean, now strewn with wreckage from the landslide. The children’s ages haven’t been disclosed.
The disaster occurred around 9 p.m. Monday, engulfing three single-family homes, per the Alaska Department of Transportation.
Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, shared in a press briefing that a woman was rescued Tuesday morning from the upper floor of one of the affected homes. She’s currently receiving medical treatment and is in stable condition.
The landslide, about 450 feet wide where it crossed a local road, was reported by the state transport department. It buried the road, leaving around 75 homes without access or power. Residents from the isolated area were moved to safer parts of town by boat, the state emergency office said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the slide was still moving, state troopers noted, and more landslides might happen. Everyone living nearby was told to leave the area.
Phone lines were out in the isolated town, but a Facebook update shared that a local food bank was taking donations, and there was a community spot at a nearby bakery.
“Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with those suffering due to last night’s events,” was the message on Wrangell’s Facebook page.
State troopers, with help from various groups like the U.S. Coast Guard and the Forest Service, were in charge of the search and rescue missions.
Wrangell, a small coastal town in southeast Alaska, has just over 2,000 people, the latest census shows.
State troopers told people on the other side of the landslide, not near Wrangell, to leave using water taxis. There’s a shelter ready for them.
Wrangell had about 2 inches of rain from early morning to evening on Monday, and winds were blowing hard, up to 60 mph up high, according to Aaron Jacobs, a weather expert from the National Weather Service in Juneau.
This was all part of a big storm that hit southeast Alaska. It brought loads of snow and really strong winds to Juneau, and rain and some flooding to places further south. Landslides hit near Ketchikan and on Prince of Wales Island too.
Looks like another storm will come to Wrangell by late Wednesday or Thursday.