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West Virginia landslide forces evacuation, destroys church

By
Amy R. Connolly
Charleston, W. Va. landslide area. Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Todd Harrell/ West Virginia National Guard
Charleston, W. Va. landslide area. Photo courtesy Lt. Col. Todd Harrell/ West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va., March 13 (UPI) -- At least 30 families were evacuated and two buildings were destroyed as a slow-moving landslide continued Friday to engulf an area near Yeager Airport. With the looming threat of rain, officials are considering more evacuations.

The landslide began Wednesday afternoon on a manmade hill near the airport. At least one home was buried and Keystone Apostolic Church was destroyed. All of the homes in danger are at the base of the hill.

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The moving dirt filled nearby Two-Mile Creek, causing flooding in the area. Despite excavators working through the night to keep the water level down, the flooding continued.

Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the area through 3 p.m., causing more panic the landslide would continue and the floodwaters would rise.

The West Virginia National Guard was called out to help residents move quickly out of the area. There were no reports of injuries.

Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy told MetroNews he watched as the landslide happened.

"I've personally watched this for now at least 30 minutes and the slippage across the whole face of the fill has not stopped for 30 minutes," Hardy said. "It's like a slow motion slippage that keeps on going."

The manmade 270-foot-tall hill was constructed about eight years ago with about 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt for an airport emergency runway area. It's one of the largest of its kind in the world. Airport officials said the main runway is not at risk for damage.

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