WRANGELL, Alaska – The death toll from a devastating landslide that struck Wrangell, Alaska, last week has risen to four, as authorities recovered the body of an 11-year-old girl from the debris on Saturday.
The victims have been identified as Timothy Heller, 40, Beth Heller, 36, Mara Heller, 16, and Kara Heller, 11. Two individuals, Otto Florschutz, 65, and Derek Heller, 12, are still missing.
Officials have reported that a team remains on standby, ready to resume the search for the missing victims if needed. The landslide occurred suddenly along the Zimovia Highway, approximately 11 miles south of Wrangell, on November 20th just before 9 pm. It was estimated to be 450 feet wide where it crossed the highway. The ground remains unstable, posing risks of further movement.
First responders have revealed that three homes were believed to have been damaged by the flow of rocky debris along the Zimovia Highway. The disaster occurred following heavy rain and snow in southeastern Alaska, with gusty winds exceeding 100 mph, causing blizzard conditions and power outages along the southeastern coast.
Governor Mike Dunleavy has declared the situation a disaster, pledging support and resources to Wrangell. As the Gulf of Alaska is expected to continue experiencing inclement weather, the threat of mudslides and landslides remains high. Wrangell, a tight-knit community, has rallied together in times of need, reflecting the resilience and strength of Alaskans.
The recovery and search operations are ongoing, with authorities remaining vigilant in their efforts to locate the missing individuals. The devastating impact of the landslide serves as a somber reminder of the dangers posed by natural disasters and the need for preparedness in vulnerable areas