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Homes ruined and missing: massive landslide hits Alaska

Six people went missing after a landslide the size of about two football fields struck in the Haynes area in southeastern Alaska, state police said. Writes about it ABC13.

Photo: Shutterstock

It was one of several landslides following a period of heavy rain, which destroyed at least four houses and damaged several others.

Search and rescue operations were suspended on Wednesday evening, December 2, as rains continued to hit the area. The flash flood warning was in effect until late in the night of the same day. Haynes County Mayor Douglas Olerud told The Associated Press that prospecting will resume Thursday morning, December 3.

“The soil is not stable enough right now,” he said, adding that the state would provide additional resources. The town has about 2500 inhabitants.

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The missing persons lived in the Beach Road area, where the largest landslide hit on Wednesday afternoon, December 2, about 600 feet (183 meters) wide, Olerud said. Rescuers said the area is covered in trees and mud with a layer of about 9 feet (2,7 meters).

Olerud said about 30 people were evacuated while rescue teams rescued others. He did not give full information about the victims and the missing.

Rebecca Cameica lives on Beach Road, beyond the landslide site. According to her, due to the landslide and related damage to the road, some areas have become inaccessible. She and her boyfriend stayed at his job; they were fine and expected nothing to happen to their house either, but the couple were evacuated as a precaution.

The incident came as a shock to local residents, said Kameika, who set up a fundraising account and plans to work with another relief group to make sure money is distributed fairly and where it is needed.

Haynes resident Luke Williams said the downpour on the day of the disaster was "the worst I have ever seen." The man added that he has been living in this area for all his 39 years.

The attempt to transfer search and rescue teams by helicopter from Juneau was postponed until Thursday morning, December 3, servicemen said. The Coast Guard is also sending forces from elsewhere in southeastern Alaska to help.

“At this point, we know that the city of Haynes suffered damage following reports of multiple landslides in the area,” said Captain Stephen White, commander of the Juneau Coast Guard. "The extent of the damage is not yet known, but we are actively relocating several facilities and personnel to assist local first responders and residents who may have been affected by landslides."

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was launched from Sitka to provide assistance, while Coast Guard boats Liberty and Anacapa were ordered to prepare to sail to Haynes for additional support.

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A Coast Guard response boat, 45 feet (13,7 meters) in length, was also launched from Juneau.

Olerud said the situation is evolving so quickly that he cannot provide a list of additional resources that they may need.

“We can always accept prayers. They work. We need a lot of them right now, ”Olerud told AP.

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