Landslide hits Washington state's Whidbey Island, destroys one home

SEATTLE, March 27 Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:32pm EDT

SEATTLE, March 27 (Reuters) - A landslide thundered through a subdivision in Washington state's Whidbey Island north of Seattle on Wednesday, destroying one home and threatening more than 30 others, a fire official said.

"It looks like a giant shovel pulled the hill down to the water," said Central Whidbey Fire Chief Ed Hartin. "We heard a lot of rumbling and snapping of trees."

The landslide hit the Ledgewood Beach community about 50 miles (80 km) north of Seattle at 4:15 a.m. local time, knocking one house off its foundation and destroying a road, Hartin said.

Authorities rescued 12 residents from nearly 20 homes in the area that were cut off when a road was damaged by the landslide, Hartin said.

Another 17 homes were evacuated because they were left unsafe or uninhabitable by the disaster, he said. None one was injured, he added.

The homes in the Ledgewood Beach area are a mix of year-round and vacation properties that sit high on a bluff overlooking the waters of the Puget Sound.

A local home owned by Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer did not appear to be immediately threatened, Hartin said.

A county geotechnical engineer was evaluating how long residents would be forced to stay out of their homes.

"This is an area that has experienced a few landslides in the past," Hartin said.

The area has not experienced recent heavy rains, he said.

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