4 people missing after several landslides in Alaska

Anchorage: Four people were missing from a neighbourhood in the Alaska coastal town of Sitka after heavy rain caused several landslides and flooded homes, emergency responders have said.

The landslides were reported in the southeast Alaska town after 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters) of rain fell in 24 hours. One sinkhole also was reported. Governor Bill Walker will tour Sitka today to observe the damage. “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are missing and all the people affected by the disasters in Sitka today,” Walker said in a written statement provided by his office.

The people who were unaccounted for were believed to be workers at a residential construction site, Sitka fire spokeswoman Sara Peterson said. Because of the instability of the site, a search had not yet started. One of the newly built homes was destroyed in the landslide and another was damaged, Peterson said. Some other homes in the area were evacuated, but Peterson did not know how many residences or people were affected. An office building just outside town also was evacuated because it is near one of the landslides. Some homes in town have been flooded and there were reports of residents not being able to reach their homes or leave their neighbourhood, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Longtime Sitka resident Nolan Simpson said he toured parts of town and saw one home where the driveway was gone, replaced by a stream washing through it. He passed the Indian River and said it was roaring.

The construction site incident was especially heartbreaking, he said. “It’s pretty devastating on how fast something like this can happen,” Simpson, a retired commercial fishermen, said in a phone interview from a saloon. The city of more than 9,000 people declared a state of emergency because of the landslides. Sitka, almost 600 miles (965 kilometers) southeast of Anchorage, sees heavy rain throughout the year. More rain was expected. Heavy rain was blamed for a major landslide in September near the town that wiped out hundreds of thousands of dollars in watershed restoration projects. A year earlier, two people at a US Forest Service cabin near Sitka escaped moments before part of a mountain slid down.

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