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18 missing, four dead after massive mudslide

Marcus Yam/The Seattle Times via Associated Press

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Eighteen people were unaccounted for a day after a terrifying wall of mud, trees, and debris killed at least three people and destroyed as many as 30 houses in rural northwestern Washington state, authorities said Sunday.

Because of the quicksand-like mud, authorities said it was too dangerous to send rescuers into the stricken area. Searchers instead flew over the 1-square-mile mudslide in helicopters, looking for signs of life.

Some of the missing may have been able to get out on their own, authorities said.

Authorities were also trying to determine how to get responders on the ground safely, said Travis Hots, chief of Snohomish County Fire District 21.

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