Landslide death toll rises to 24

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by SHAWN CHITNIS, WHITNEY WARD, KING 5 News, KREM.com, & Associated Press

KREM.com

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 1:22 PM

The latest:

  • Snohomish County officials have confirmed they've recovered 16 bodies and located 8 more.
  • Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said searchers found no survivors during Tuesday’s search.
  • Snohomish County spokesman Shari Ireton said additional slide victims have been found, but the number of victims has not been confirmed yet.
  • Snohomish County officials say they do not need any more volunteers. However, people can call 425-388-5088 or email demcallcenter@snoco.org to report someone missing or someone safe.

INTERACTIVE: Anatomy of a Mudslide

DARRINGTON, Wash. — Snohomish County spokesman Shari Ireton said Tuesday afternoon additional landslide victims have been found, but the number of victims has not been confirmed yet.

The news comes three days after the massive landslide destroyed the rural area in Snohohomish County. The death toll remained at 14 early Tuesday, but as Ireton indicated, that number was expected to rise.

Scores more people were reported missing, but Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington would not estimate how many bodies were still buried in the tons of mud and crumpled homes in Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

Pennington acknowledged that the chances of finding survivors was small, but said the effort remained a rescue and recovery operation.

"I've said it before-- I believe in miracles," he said. "I believe that people can survive these events."

“We are going to do everything that we can, with our capabilities, to recover every single person. That’s no guarantee that we’re going to get everybody, but we are going to do our very best to get everybody out of there,” said District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The search for survivors in the debris field is dangerous, and officials emphasized Tuesday no more volunteers were needed. A volunteer rescue worker was injured when a small piece of debris was thrown up in helicopter wash and struck the man in the head. The worker was taken to the hospital with what were described as minor injuries.

County officials are encouraging people who have reported someone missing on social media or a website, including people who are safe, to call a Snohomish County hot line at 425-388-5088 so officials can update their database. People can also email updates to demcallcenter@snoco.org. It will help if you can send a photo.

Those who are safe are also asked to call or email.  The call center can only take information. It cannot answer questions.

The collapse followed weeks of heavy rain. Still, Pennington had previously described the disaster as "completely unforeseen." The Seattle Times, however, reported this week that multiple geological reports had warned that the area was at risk.

"No language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, warning of 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure,'" the Times reported.

Lynne Rodgers Miller, who wrote the report with her husband Daniel, told the Times that when she saw the news of the mudslide Saturday morning, she knew immediately where the land had given way.

"We've known it would happen at some point," he told newspaper. "We just didn't know when."

Pennington said he was focused on the rescue operation and had not seen the Times report.

"There will be a time to address that," he said, adding that a small earthquake, measuring 1.1, had apparently struck behind the slide on March 10.

President Obama signed an emergency declaration ordering federal aid to the area. The National Guard was on the scene.


  Graphic courtesy The Seattle Times

"I would just ask all Americans to send their thoughts and prayers to Washington state," Obama said, speaking from the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, Netherlands.

The landslide, which consumed a community of almost 50 homes, covers an 1-square mile area. Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin thanked people for the outpouring of support Tuesday, adding that no additional volunteer help was needed.

“We have a perfect team in place to start this process and really kick it into high gear, so we don’t need more volunteers,” said Pennington.

“We are going to do everything that we can, with our capabilities, to recover every single person. That’s no guarantee that we’re going to get everybody, but we are going to do our very best to get everybody out of there,” said Hots.

Mountain Loop Highway will be back open sometime Tuesday, said Snohomish County Public Works Director Steve Thompson, but he urged drivers to be cautious. It will be a mountainous road with some areas of gravel.

The next issue for searchers is rain, which is expected over the next four days, but officials say it will not slow down their search efforts. Thompson predicts the river will go up 3-to-4 feet downstream of the slide.

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