Workers dig through debris using heavy equipment in the mudslide
Death toll rises to 24 in US mudslide
Arlington, Washington, March 26, 2014
The likely death toll from a devastating weekend landslide in Washington state rose to 24 on Tuesday after rescue workers recovered two bodies and believed they had located eight more, the local fire chief said.
As many as 176 people remained listed as missing three days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed on Saturday, tumbling over a river, across a state road and into a rural residential area where it buried dozens of homes near the town of Oso.
The discovery of additional bodies came as crews searched in drizzling rain for survivors amid fading hopes that anyone could still be plucked alive from the massive pile of heavy muck and debris.
"Unfortunately we did not find any signs of life today, we didn't locate anybody alive, so that's the disappointing part," local fire chief Travis Hots told a media briefing, adding that the official death toll would remain at 16 until the eight sets of remains could be extricated and sent to the medical examiner.
Officials said they were hoping that the number of missing would decline as some of those listed may have been double-counted or were slow to alert family and officials of their whereabouts. Eight people were injured.
But the disaster already ranks as one of the deadliest landslides in recent US history. In 1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and ensuing floods in Nelson County, Virginia, according to the US Geological Survey.
Though authorities have said chances were low of finding more survivors in the cement-like mud blanketing the landscape, Hots said some 50 more searchers had been brought in to sift through the disaster zone in hopes of a miracle.
"This makes up over 200 responders that are here on-site, working very hard to locate victims and hopefully find somebody that is still alive. That is still our number-one priority out there," he said.
Search and rescue operations would carry on to a lesser extent throughout the night and would ramp up to full strength again at first light, he said. - Reuters