Washington landslide death toll rises to 24, list of still missing is at 30

mudslide

DARRINGTON, Wash. — The grim death toll from the massive landslide in rural Washington rose Monday to 24 people, authorities said.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office released the names of 17 of the victims and said it is working to identify the other seven people.

Four-month-old Sanoah Huestis was the youngest of the 17 victims who were identified. The oldest was 71.

Thirty people are still listed as missing, officials have said.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee requested that President Barack Obama issue a major disaster declaration for the area. The governor asked for help with housing, funeral expenses and other disaster-related personal expenses, and unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs as a result of the mudslide.

“Words cannot describe the devastation done to the community of Oso and the impact the landslide continues to have in Darrington, Arlington and neighboring communities,” Inslee said in a news release announcing the request.

On March 22, a rain-saturated hillside along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River gave way, sending a square-mile rush of wet earth and rock into the outskirts of the town of Oso in Washington’s North Cascade Mountains.

Each day hundreds of searchers and dogs go through the muck looking for bodies though some cling to hope someone might be found alive.

The supervisor for the search team on the eastern side of the slide said about four to six times per day someone gets a “hit” on what may be a body or body par in the debris, but Steve Harris said identification is difficult and takes time.

The slide was so powerful it crushed a lot of what was in its path. Cars were compacted to the size of a refrigerator, he said.

He said the debris is 70 feet thick in some places with an average of 30 feet over the disaster zone. Searchers are also looking at areas on the periphery to make sure nothing is overlooked, he said.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Harris said.

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