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High Tech Tools And Tricks Aid Search For Landslide Victims

A view of mud-covered SR 530 after Saturday's landslide that struck near Oso, Wash.

Rescuers are employing high technology tools and tricks to help locate victims buried deep under the muck and debris of Saturday’s landslide in Northwest Washington.

Rescue and recovery coordinators are now asking the families of possible landslide victims for the mobile phone numbers of the missing. Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington says searchers are in the disaster zone with sensitive receivers to detect any weak signals.

“They’re trying to ping for cell phones for the purposes of essentially locating individuals in the debris," he says. "There are technologies that can further refine where that ping came from. I know that process is going on right now.”

Other technical rescue teams are armed with listening devices and small cameras to probe voids in the mudflow.

Pennington cautions the chances are slim to find anyone alive at this point, but he adds he believes “in miracles.”

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.