JUNEAU, AK – A remote fishing community in southeast Alaska was struck by a devastating landslide on Monday, resulting in three confirmed fatalities and three individuals reported missing. Approximately 450 feet wide, the landslide occurred during a severe rain and windstorm near Wrangell, an island community located 155 miles south of Juneau.
Initial search efforts led to the discovery of a young girl’s body, while the remains of two adults were located by a drone operator late Tuesday. The search for two missing children and one adult continues, with rescue teams employing cadaver-sniffing dogs and heat-sensing drones. The Coast Guard and other vessels are also searching the waterfront, now covered in rocks, trees, and mud.
A woman on the upper floor of a house at the time of the landslide was rescued and is currently receiving medical treatment. According to Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel, one of the three homes hit by the landslide was unoccupied.
Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s interim borough manager, expressed the community’s resilience in the face of the tragedy. “We’re broken but resilient and determined to find everybody that’s missing,” he said.
Governor Mike Dunleavy has issued a disaster declaration for Wrangell. The landslide has left a visible mark on the landscape, with a large portion of the mountain now barren and approximately 75 homes cut off from access and power due to debris.
The instability and hazards of the site hampered initial search and rescue efforts. A geologist from the state transportation department was flown in to conduct a preliminary assessment and clear some areas for ground searches.
Residents on the other side of the landslide have been urged to evacuate via water taxi due to the risk of additional landslides. The area received about two inches of rain on Monday, accompanied by wind gusts of up to 60 mph at higher elevations.
The landslide is part of a broader weather pattern affecting southeast Alaska, with heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions reported in Juneau and minor flooding in areas farther south. Another storm system is expected to hit the Wrangell area late Wednesday into Thursday.