/6 people missing after Alaska landslides, at least 4 homes destroyed

6 people missing after Alaska landslides, at least 4 homes destroyed

Search and rescue operations will begin Thursday.

Six people are missing and at least four houses have been destroyed after a series of landslides hit Haines, Alaska, Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Several slides occurred during the day. The largest, in Battery Hill, was about 600 feet wide and trapped about 30 people. The victims were soon evacuated, Haines Borough Mayor Douglas Olerud told The Associated Press.

As of Wednesday night, there are approximately 9 feet of mud and trees covering the area where the houses were destroyed, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Search and rescue operations were suspended for the evening due to rumbling unstable ground. Juneau’s Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Alaska State Troopers, Juneau Mountain Rescue, SEADOGS, and Capital City Fire Department medics will be departing Thursday morning on an Army Guard helicopter to assist in the rescue efforts. Due to severe turbulence, they were not able to visit the area Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the mayor issued a declaration of emergency due to the severe flooding in the area caused by a winter storm. The declaration states that due to heavy rain and snow, several roads are flooded and impassable and there was significant infrastructure loss due to the deterioration and collapse of roads. “Several Haines Borough residents have lost their homes both due to flooding and mud slides,” Olerud’s declaration states.

Due to the declaration of emergency, the town closed its school and non-essential businesses.

“Haines is going to be needing lots of prayers,” Olerud wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday. “We have several roads that have washed out, mud slides, and houses flooding. Crews have been working all night but the amount of rain we are getting is making it difficult for them to address all the problems. Please be patient with each other. These are stressful times but Haines will come together and help each other. If you are in an emergency situation contact dispatch at 766-2121.”

Various local businesses are helping out the community by providing food and blankets to those in need.

“To our Haines angels, thank you Sarah J’s, Rusty Compass, Alpenglow and Krystal Lloyd for feeding our responders. Your support is greatly appreciated,” the Haines Borough Police Department wrote on Facebook late Wednesday.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, groups are also organizing socially distanced evacuation efforts, and calling residents to leave their homes and convene at the beach, the police department announced on Facebook. On Wednesday, the mayor recommended residents living in risk zones evacuate to local hotels.

The Statewide Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is working on sheltering and other disaster aspects, and the Alaska State Troopers are working with government and non-government agencies to get residents affected the help they need, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

“At this point we are aware that damage has occurred in the town of Haines following the report of multiple landslides in the borough,” Capt. Stephen White, commander of Coast Guard Sector Juneau, said in a statement, according to the AP. “The scope of the damage is unknown at this time but we are proactively moving several assets and personnel to provide assistance to local first responders and the residents who may have been impacted by the landslides.”

Haines Borough is currently running on an emergency power supply, as Lutak Dock, where the town receives its fuel barge, is on the other side of one of the washed out roads, Olerud’s declaration states. The declaration will remain in place for at least seven days.

ABC News’ Michelle Mendez contributed to this report.

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