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Six people missing after Alaska landslide

The landslide in southeast Alaska followed heavy rains and destroyed several homes.
Image: Haines, Alaska mudslide
Damage from heavy rains and a mudslide 600 feet wide in Haines, Alaska, on Dec. 2, 2020.Matt Boron / Alaska Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities via AP

Six people are unaccounted for in Alaska after a large landslide following heavy rains, officials said.

Nine feet of mud and trees covered the area after the major landslide, which happened sometime before 1:50 p.m. Wednesday in Haines, state troopers said in a statement. At least four houses were destroyed in the community of around 2,000 people in southeastern Alaska.

Image: Haines, Alaska mudslide
A mudslide 600 feet wide in Haines, Alaska, after heavy rains on Wednesday. Matt Boron / Alaska Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities via AP

There had been smaller landslides, but the biggest happened Wednesday afternoon, Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud told NBC affiliate KTUU of Anchorage.

"We’ve had significant rainfall on top of frozen ground and snow," he said.

Search-and-rescue operations were suspended for the evening because of unstable ground, state troopers said, but more help was set to arrive Thursday.

The Coast Guard, as well as mountain rescue personnel and medics from Juneau either have arrived or would be arriving Thursday, officials said.

More than 9 inches of rain fell on the Haines airport over 36 hours, National Weather Service meteorologist Gregg Spann said Wednesday evening, and another inch or inch-and-a-half is expected before the storm is over.

A flash flood watch was in place for the Haines area through Thursday morning.

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"Southeast Alaska is used to seeing a lot of rain," Spann said, but "this is an exceptional amount."

Woody Pahl, a fisherman, told Alaska Public Media that he was by the harbor when a landslide hit what he believed to be three houses.

"And I look over, and all the water’s going out, all the boats are going back down in the harbor. And the hillside is just sliding and sending all the trees and everything, the houses, out into the bay in front of town," he said.

Haines is on the Alaska panhandle, south of Skagway and about 75 miles north of Juneau.