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14 People Dead, 176 Reports of Missing After Washington Mudslide
BY TRACY CONNOR AND JEFF BLACK
Six more bodies were found Monday in a Washington town that was engulfed by mud when a hillside collapsed, raising the number of confirmed dead to 14, and authorities are chasing down a striking 176 reports of people missing.
The number of reports of missing people was up from 108 earlier in the day, though authorities cautioned that many of those could likely be false alarms and duplicates.
The search effort included firefighters and police officers, dogs and heavy equipment operators — even a hovercraft.
Officials Increase Number of Missing in Mudslide
The threat of a secondary landslide for a time hampered search-and-rescue efforts Monday afternoon.
Emergency management officials said some crews had been pulled off the disaster site in Oso, Wash., because of the danger.
"There is movement on the landslide," said state geologist Dave Norman.
State officials said geologist from several agencies were on the scene to monitor the hillside, but the slide area remained unsafe for recovery work before beginning again.
But the going was tough, officials said, with some areas “like quicksand” and others chunky hard clay hard to traverse and dig.
No survivors were found on Monday, said Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots in a Monday evening news briefing.
Crews were going to continue overnight and into the morning, however.
“We’re looking in areas where there are most likely survivors,” Hots said, including structures and vehicles.
On the way to help is a 50-person specialty search-and-rescue team from the National Guard, said John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Emergency Management Agency.
Miguel Almaguer: Mudslide Damage Roughly ‘500 Football Fields’
The mudslide Saturday flattened dozens of homes in an area that was 4,400 feet wide by 4,400 feet long — shy of a square mile — leaving a jumble of muck and debris in its wake.
It peeled off a section of the hill that is 1,500 feet wide and 600 feet high. The concern was the land behind that so-called head-scarp might be unstable.
The mud and debris also dammed up a river, which was causing flooding upstream. The water was up to the eaves in seven homes, and officials were considering further evacuations.
President Barack Obama declared an emergency in Snohomish County, Wash., because of the mudslide and flooding. He ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts and authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts with "the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population."