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Search off and on for 4 missing in Canada landslide

By Michael Martinez and Elwyn Lopez, CNN
updated 8:29 PM EDT, Fri July 13, 2012
Four people are missing after a landslide Thursday in British Columbia.
Four people are missing after a landslide Thursday in British Columbia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Crews conduct an off-and-on search, depending on unstable or stable conditions
  • The two daughters and ex-husband of a Florida chiropractor could be among the missing
  • Three homes are destroyed, several damaged in the remote mountain area of British Columbia

(CNN) -- Canadian rescuers facing risks searched off and on Friday for people missing after a landslide in a remote mountainous area of British Columbia, an emergency official said.

The search was suspended at times because the disaster site was deemed unstable, emergency officials said.

"It's an ongoing situation," Bill Macpherson of the Regional District of Central Kootenay Emergency Operations Center told CNN.

Four people remained unaccounted for Friday for after three homes were destroyed and several others damaged in Johnsons Landing in the Kootenays, Macpherson said.

Authorities would not provide details about the four missing people, but the two daughters and ex-husband of a Delray Beach, Florida, chiropractor could be among them. The family has a house in the disaster site, according to the chiropractor's representative.

Valentine Webber, the ex-husband of chiropractor Lynn Migdal, and their daughters Diana and Rachel Webber were preparing to sit down for breakfast Thursday in the family home in Johnsons Landing, and that's the last time that Migdal heard about her family's activities, a friend, Bridget Finelli, told CNN. Finelli said Migdal wasn't available for interviews, but that Finelli was authorized to speak for her friend.

Two search-and-rescue teams and a number of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were on the scene, along with geotechnical workers and a landslide expert, Macpherson said.

The ground gave way just before noon Thursday in Johnsons Landing.

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A state of local emergency has been declared, Macpherson said. "It's a very small community, quite isolated."

Search-and-rescue crews were having difficulties because of poor cell phone reception, Macpherson said, adding that they were sending him updates via satellite phone.

The steep slopes and mountainous terrain are home to a few permanent residents and various summer residents, he said.

The area has been drenched by a record amount of rain during the past month, but it was not clear whether that was a factor, Macpherson said. Geotechnical staff were trying to determine the landslide's cause.

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CNN's Jackie Castillo and Jake Carpenter contributed to this report.

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