Mom pleads for help after B.C. homes hit by landslide, 4 missing
Published Friday, July 13, 2012 7:06AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 13, 2012 10:40PM EDT
The mother of two young women believed to be trapped under a massive landslide in a remote B.C. community is appealing for help, but dangerous conditions in the area are hampering search-and-rescue efforts.
The landslide swept through the tiny community of Johnsons Landing Thursday morning, destroying several homes in the process.
Lynn Migdal said she believes her daughters Rachel Webber, 17, and Diana Webber, 22, and ex-husband Valentine Webber are under the slide. A German tourist is also believed to have been caught in the landslide.
"I need hundreds of people with shovels as soon as possible, if there is any chance that my family is still breathing," she said in a phone interview from Florida.
"There are three people buried alive right now, hopefully alive, deep down in one of my houses that got torn apart and twisted on its side," Migdal said.
Crews were planning to begin excavating the massive table of mud, rocks and trees that was up to 100 feet deep in places on Friday, but precarious conditions and the threat of more landslides delayed the searchers from entering the area. A smaller, second landslide was reported in the area Friday.
A ground-level search was finally approved later in the day.
Migdal said one of her daughters spoke to a friend just before the landslide and said they were just about to sit down to breakfast. That means they were in the kitchen of an older building on the property at the time of the landslide, she said.
"That is the part that is deep down and has to be dug up."
Migdal said she was frustrated by the slow pace of the rescue effort.
Meanwhile, her daughters’ friends say they are trying to remain hopeful.
"People are feeling pretty bad about it. I know I'm just trying to think positively and no one has heard for sure what's going on,” Tasha Hewat told CTV British Columbia.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Friday the massive slide "tore a swath through this small community." The likelihood of finding survivors is slim, he said.
"We have to all be realistic now that some of the visual images have emerged here late yesterday and today and everybody is realizing the chance of survivability of anyone in the direct path of the slide is not good," Moskaluk told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
The tiny hamlet of Johnsons Landing has a population of just 35 and is located near Kaslo, along Kootenay Lake.
Residents say the landslide destroyed five homes.
‘It was like hearing a railroad train coming down’
Richard Ortega, a resident of Johnson's Landing who witnessed the landslide, compared the event to watching a train slide down a mountain.
"All of a sudden we heard this big rumbling from the mountain above us and everybody stopped and turned and looked because the ground started to shake. It got louder and louder and we could actually hear it physically move down the mountain," Ortega told Canada AM.
"It was this massive giant thing. It was like hearing a railroad train coming down and it went all the way down to the lake and then stopped."
Ortega said it took about 30 seconds for the slide to come to a stop, in which time three homes were completely destroyed and "the entire lifestyle of the town" was changed forever.
Once the slide had stopped, Ortega and others jumped in their vehicles and tried to drive to the lakeshore, where they knew a home had been hit. They quickly ran into a massive blockage in the road and had to proceed on foot, then in a canoe, in order to get around the massive tangle of trees and mud to where the house had been.
All that was left was a roof, but Ortega said it turned out no one was in the home at the time of the landslide.
Ortega said the community is still in shock.
"It's amazing to realize how quickly your life can be shifted," he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia and files from The Canadian Press