WednesdayJanuary 192005

Search continues for mudslide victims
Global BC, Broadcast News
One home was completely destroyed and another damaged in a mudslide in North Vancouver early Wednesday. (Global BC)
Rescue crews dug through the debris to rescue one man, while at least one other resident of the house was missing. (Global BC)
Neighbour Erwin Hofstetter says he was the first on scene, and helped to dig the male victim out. Hofstetter's wife, Flora, called 911. (Global BC)

NORTH VANCOUVER - Emergency officials say several people have been taken to hospital and up to two are still missing after two homes were swept up in a mudslide in North Vancouver.

One home was completely demolished and another badly damaged after the earth gave way around 3:30 a.m. PT Wednesday, following several days of heavy rain on B.C.'s south coast.

"When the fire crews first arrived on scene, they did a quick search and they found some of [one man's] limbs sticking out of the mud," said North Vancouver District Fire Chief Gary Calder.

Calder says the victim was transported alive to hospital, where he is currently listed in serious condition.

"We understand that there is [at least] one more person in that house, we believe it may be his wife."

Calder said a search team was using parabolic listening devices to try to locate other victims, but that crews remain "in peril" on the unstable ridge as they search the debris.

There were conflicting reports about how many were in the home. Neighbours said the couple also had a daughter living at home, but it is believed she may have been away at boarding school.

The man was being interviewed in hospital to try to clarify the situation, but he remained in shock.

A woman in a second house damaged by the slide used her cell phone to call for help and was rescued with no injuries.

Witnesses say the house was swept down the hill and out into the roadway below.

"You couldn't see very much because there wasn't any lights or anything," said a next-door neighbour.

"All you could see was, with a flashlight, you could see all the debris on the road. We started to poke around because we saw house bits in with the trees."

The neighbour says firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly after, and helped to pull the man from the mud.

Another neighbour described a sound like a snow plow scraping the street when the slide occurred. He said he initially thought a tree had fallen into the river.

The houses were on a hill road above the intersection of Treetop Lane, Chapman Way and Riverside Drive.

Residents in about 70 homes in the area have been evacuated as a safety precaution, while a geotechnical survey team assessed the danger to other houses.

Evacuees were being housed in the nearby Mickey McDougall recreation centre, while others congregated in the parking lot of a Real Canadian Superstore.

Premier Gordon Campbell and Solicitor General Rich Coleman were on their way to North Vancouver for an RCMP briefing.

The slide occurred as a heavy rainfall warning continued in the Lower Mainland.

The rain also caused a Vancouver district water main to burst nearby, forcing RCMP to divert traffic from Mount Seymour Parkway.