Authorities say the death toll from a massive mudslide in a rural part of Washington state has risen to 14 after searchers found six additional bodies among the debris, as dozens more remain unaccounted for.
Authorities said earlier in the day that over 100 missing person reports have been filed, but the accuracy of those reports could not be immediately verified. This is due to the fact that it is possible people have called in multiple reports about the same person, authorities told Fox News.
The 1-square-mile mudslide struck Saturday morning in Snohomish County, critically injuring several people and destroying about 30 homes. Authorities have described the search for additional survivors to be "grim" as crews battle uneven ground and rising waters.
John Pennington, emergency response managing director, said there are reports of up to 108 people missing in the mudslide, but noted that number is unconfirmed.
"This is a large scale disaster event," Pennington said. "We have 108 individual names, or likeness ... It’s a soft 108."
Other authorities said they have not been able to determine whether there were multiple calls about the same missing person.
"It was Saturday and probably a higher number than what you would see on a week day," he said of the victims during a press conference Monday. Pennington said it remains unclear how many structures were impacted at the time.
Crews were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday evening.
"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," he said, adding that they did not search the entire debris field, only drier areas safe to traverse. "It's very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene."
Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots said the search under way is technically still a "rescue" operation but added that no survivors have been found since Saturday.
Before crews could get onto the debris field late Sunday morning, they looked for signs of life by helicopter. Authorities initially said it was too dangerous to send rescuers out on foot.
Rescuers' hopes of finding more survivors were buoyed late Saturday when they heard people yelling for help, but they were unable to reach anyone. The soupy mud was so thick and deep that searchers had to turn back.
The slide wiped through what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes -- some nearly 100 years old.
As the search for the missing continued, authorities said some may have been able to get out on their own. The number unaccounted for could change because some people may have been in cars and on roads when the slide hit just before 11 a.m. Saturday, authorities said.
Officials described the mudslide as "a big wall of mud and debris." It blocked about a mile of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported to be about 15 feet deep in some areas.
Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as "a square mile of total devastation" after flying over the disaster area midday Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones.
"There is a full scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now," said Inslee, who proclaimed a state of emergency.
The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. With the water pooling behind the debris, authorities worried about downstream flooding and issued an evacuation notice Saturday. The water had begun to seep through the blockage Sunday afternoon, alleviating some concerns.
Snohomish County officials said Sunday that residents could return home during daylight hours. Even though the evacuation had been lifted, Inslee urged residents to remain alert.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Monday afternoon.
Shari Ireton, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish County sheriff's office, said Sunday that several people were injured in the slide.
A 6-month-old boy and an 81-year-old man remained in critical condition Sunday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said two men, ages 37 and 58, were in serious condition, while a 25-year-old woman was upgraded to satisfactory condition.
Bruce Blacker, who lives just west of the slide, doesn't know the whereabouts of six neighbors.
"It's a very close knit community," Blacker said as he waited at an Arlington roadblock before troopers let him through. There were almost 20 homes in the neighborhood that was destroyed, he said.
Search-and-rescue help came from around the region, including the Washington State Patrol and the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 100 were at the scene.
Evacuation shelters were set up at Post Middle School in Arlington and the Darrington Community Center.
Dane Williams, 30, who lives a few miles from the mudslide, spent Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter at the Arlington school.
He said he saw a few "pretty distraught" people at the shelter who didn't know the fate of loved ones who live in the stricken area.