6 people missing and homes destroyed in “destructive” Alaskan muddy slides


Six people have disappeared after a crash of two football pitches crashed into the neighborhood of the southeastern Alaskan community in Haines, the Alaskan state team said Wednesday. It was one of the reported mud slips after heavy rainfall, which authorities said destroyed at least four houses and damaged others.

Search and rescue efforts were suspended on Wednesday night as rain continued in the area. A rapid flood warning was in place until late Wednesday. Douglas Olerud, the mayor of Haines, told the Associated Press that search work would continue Thursday morning.

Alaskan landslides
The photo, taken by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Service, shows rainfall and a 600-foot-wide mud slide in Haines, Alaska, on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.

Matt Boron / AP


“The soil is not stable enough at the moment,” he said, adding that the state will provide additional resources on Thursday. The town has about 2,500 inhabitants.

The unregistered were at Beach Road, where the largest slide – about 600 feet wide – came down Wednesday afternoon, Olerud said. Soldiers say about 9 feet of mud and trees cover the area.

About 30 people were evacuated and disaster relief personnel rescued others, Olerud said. He did not have complete information.

The Alaska Department of Transportation called landslides and surrounding floods “devastating.”

“Over the past 24 hours, strong winds and record rainfall have caused significant damage to roads and infrastructure in many communities in southeast Alaska,” the ministry said on Facebook. “Our staff works non-stop to clean water and remove debris from roads and ditches.”

Alaskan landslides
The photo, taken by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Service, shows rainfall and a 600-foot-wide mud slide in Haines, Alaska, on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.

Matt Boron / AP


Rebecca Kameika lives on Beach Road, although she is closer to Haines than where the slide reached. He said some neighborhoods are inaccessible due to slides and associated road damage.

They were at work with her boyfriend; they were fine and expected to have a home too, but were evacuated as a precaution, he said.

The incident is devastating to the community, said Kameika, who has set up a fundraising account and, working with another group, plans to make sure the money is distributed fairly and where it is needed.

Haines resident Luke Williams said the community is coming together. This storm was “the worst I’ve ever seen,” he said, adding that he had lived in the area for 39 years.

“It’s the only thing in this small town. Everyone comes together, no matter how angry one person is at the other. Eventually, if there is an emergency, we will all come together to help each other,” he said.

Soldiers said a helicopter from Juneau had rescued search and rescue teams by Thursday morning. The Coast Guard is also deploying forces from other ports in southeast Alaska to help.

“At this point, we are aware that damage has occurred in the city of Haines following the reporting of several landslides in the neighborhood,” said Captain Stephen White, Coast Guard Commander of the Coast Guard, in a statement. “The extent of the damage is still unknown, but we are proactively moving more equipment and personnel to help local first aiders and residents potentially affected by the landslides.”

From Sitka, Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews were deployed to provide assistance and Liberty and Anacapa Coast Guard cutters were ordered to make preparations to sail to Haines for further support.

A 45-meter Coast Guard ship was also launched from Juneau.

Olerud said the situation is moving so fast that he cannot list any additional resources they may need.

“Prayers help. We can always pray. They always work. We need a lot of that right now,” Olerud told the AP.