Rescue workers were looking for survivors as many people were still stuck under the debris late Saturday after a massive, mile-long mudslide in Snohomish County in northwest Washington killed three people, injured at least eight others and destroyed six houses.
Officials said late Saturday they could hear cries for help from those who were still trapped under the debris.
"We have people who are yelling for our help, and we are going to take extreme risks," said Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots, according to Fox News. "This is still a rescue mission until we determine otherwise."
The mudslide, possibly caused by heavy rains, hit several houses Saturday morning, killing at least three people, The Weather Channel reported.
An eyewitness, Paulo Falcao, told the Daily Herald he was driving at the time and had to quickly stop the vehicle to avoid the mudslide. "I just saw the darkness coming across the road. Everything was gone in three seconds," he said.
A trooper, Mark Francis, said that the slide happened about 11 a.m. Saturday about 55 miles north of Seattle. Estimated to be a mile long, it blocked traffic in both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso.
The slide of dirt, trees, rocks and other debris also cut off the city of Darrington and dammed the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, which caused the water to rise behind the dam. Severe downstream flooding was feared if water suddenly broke through the blockage.
County spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler urged residents around the area to be prepared to leave at a short notice if required. "We are not issuing an evacuation order," she said. "However, we need residents living along the river to be prepared. Conditions are changing very rapidly."
Those injured include a 6-month-old infant, who was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. An 81-year-old man and a 58-year-old man were also in critical condition while a 37-year-old man was said to be in serious condition.
Hots said it couldn't be determined how many people under the debris might still be alive.
"Through March 21, Seattle was only 0.69 inches away from tying their wettest March on record, set in 1950," said Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for The Weather Channel.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Egger for Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington, where five of the injured were brought, said the American Red Cross has set up at the hospital and is seeking donations of food, water, blankets and clothing.
An evacuation shelter has been set up at Post Middle School in Arlington.