Washington mudslide death toll likely to rise; 176 missing

Washington mudslide death toll likely to rise; 176 missing

Credit: Getty Images

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 23: In this handout from the Office of the Governor of Washington Jay Inslee, an aerial view of a deadly mudslide is seen on March 23, 2014 between Darrington and Arlington, Washington. Eight people have been confirmed dead and over 100 are still missing after a massive mudslide leveled homes and blocked a river and a road. (Photo by Office of the Governor via Getty Images)

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 6:57 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 25 at 7:21 AM

Elizabeth Weise / USA Today

ARLINGTON, WASH. — Search crews looked to resume their careful rescue efforts Tuesday morning near the town of Oso, a tiny rural community nearly wiped away by a massive landslide on Saturday.

As of Monday night, Snohomish County officials had collected 176 names of people who remain unaccounted for after the devastating landslide.

"I'd like to reiterate that it's not that there are 176 people missing, we simply have 176 reports," said John Pennington, Snohomish County Emergency Management director.

Many of those reports may be duplicates. One might be about a John Doe at a certain address, another about a "John with brown hair who's 56," for example. Officials are trying to reconcile the reports to get a better handle on how many individuals are actually missing.

"We're trying to whittle that down," said Pennington.

Search efforts will resume Tuesday morning, though they may be hampered by rain.

The landslide, which consumed a community of almost 50 homes, covers an 1-square mile area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

"Our crews are up against an enormous challenge, it's like quicksand out there," Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said from a makeshift podium outside the Arlington, Wash., police station Monday night.

EARLIER: 14 dead, 176 missing in Washington landslide

Crews have to move extremely carefully as they work. "Some of my guys could only go 50 feet in five minutes," because of the debris and danger of being sucked into the mud.

Search and rescue teams had to pull back Monday because of concern about the hillside moving, Pennington said. There are dozens of teams on the scene and more coming.

"Tonight or tomorrow morning we should have additional search capabilities through the National Guard for our rescue and extraction efforts. We will also have a boost in our incident command structure, and we will most probably have an additional urban search and rescue team to be on site as soon as tomorrow," said Wash. Governor Jay Inslee.

"We've got earth-moving equipment and we've got lots of people with local knowledge of that specific area," said Hots. That has been helpful as they can point out homes that were not occupied so researchers could focus on areas where people might be trapped.

As of Monday night there were 14 known fatalities after six additional bodies were located. That number is expected to rise in the coming days.

The rain, which is predicted to be as much as 4 inches over the next several days, could further liquefy the earth in the area and also bring the potential of flooding along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, which runs through Oso.

Pennington paused when asked whether there might still be survivors.

"Most of us in these communities believe we will not find anyone alive. But I am a man of faith and I believe in miracles."

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