3 dead, 3 missing in Alaska landslide that destroyed several homes

A large landslide destroyed several homes near Wrangell, Alaska on Monday night, killing three people. The search for three others missing in the slide continues as search crews navigate "hazardous" conditions. Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Three people, including a young girl, were killed and three others are still missing in a large landslide that destroyed several homes near the city of Wrangell in southeast Alaska following days of heavy rain.

The landslide struck shortly before 9 p.m. Monday near the remote fishing community of 2,000. Alaska State Troopers quickly found the body of a young female in the debris before calling off the search due to "hazardous" conditions.

"Three single-family residences were directly in the path of the landslide," Alaska's Department of Public Safety wrote in a statement Monday, as crews searched through the night.

"The body of one deceased individual was located during a hasty search. Multiple individuals are believed to have been within the slide area when the landslide occurred and are believed to be missing," the department added.

Two deceased adults were located Tuesday using a heat-sensing drone, according to Alaska Search and Rescue. The search continues for two more children and one adult, who remain missing.

One woman survived the landslide and was rescued Tuesday morning in good condition from the second floor of a home, according to Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel who added that one of the three homes destroyed was unoccupied.

Earlier Tuesday, troopers called off their search because the site, which also shut down the Zimovia Highway, was "extremely hazardous and unstable."

"A large-scale search and rescue effort cannot be done at this time as the site is extremely hazardous and unstable," the city said in a statement.

A geological expert arrived from Juneau later in the day and restarted the search in several stable areas of the slide, using cadaver dogs and drones, as more rain is forecast for next week.

"It looks like there's a lot of moisture in the next week and that's not a great forecast for being in and around that area," state geologist Barrett Salisbury warned, as more rain could cause the stable areas to shift.

The landslide is estimated to be about 450 feet wide, with a significant debris field at the Zimovia Highway, according to state transportation officials who said the slide cut off access and power to approximately 75 homes, which have been evacuated. Residents have been put up at a local hotel in town.

In December 2020, several landslides smashed into the Alaskan town of Haines where two people were presumed dead following days of searching.

In August 2015, three people were killed after heavy rain caused six landslides and one sinkhole in the southeast Alaska town of Sitka.

"This morning I verbally issued a disaster declaration for Wrangell after a large landslide took out multiple homes around mile 11 of the Zimovia Highway," Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote in a post Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter. "Rose and I are heartbroken by this disaster and we pray for the safety of all those on site and offer all the resources our state has available."