JOHNSONS LANDING (NEWS1130) -  More than three days after a landslide buried homes and left four people missing in the Kootenays, searchers are holding out hope victims may still be alive under the rubble at Johnsons Landing.

Jim Young with Vancouver’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team says it’s possible to survive under five metres of mud and debris.
“There could be air pockets, there could be some structural integrity of a basement or foundation area, it’s really, really hard to tell till you dig through there,” explains Young.

He notes access to water is also key, suggesting people can only survive about three days without it.

He adds 40 of his team members are at the scene, searching with dogs, and specialized audio equipment.

“They’ve got a monumental task in terms of that biomass debris field that’s come through there and so they’re making sure that they do their due diligence and let no stone be unturned, so to speak,” stresses Young.

He says a grid search of the slide area should be competed today.

“Once that’s done they’ll evaluate the information they have based on that, and make a decision on maintaining rescue operations, or altering to a recovery,”

Young says dogs are a critical part of the search effort, and crews also have audio and video equipment to pick up potential signs of life.

A father, his two daughters and a female German tourist have been missing since the slide hit Thursday — however emergency officials are still calling it a rescue, rather than a recovery mission.

They’ve now pinpointed the part of the smashed house where they suspect the missing four may be.