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Search Continues For Victims Of Deadly Washington State Landslide

Al Maguire
Washington Dept. of Natural Resources
Frequent rain showers are making it challenging for responders to move across the debris field.

Emergency managers at the scene of Saturday’s deadly landslide near Oso, Washington, say Wednesday's operations will be a repeat of yesterday.

Several hundred searchers are fanning out over the debris field to look for victims. Tuesday night, the local fire chief raised the death toll from 14 to 16 and said eight additional bodies have been located but not yet recovered.

Frequent rain showers are making it challenging for the professional and volunteer responders to move across the square mile of soupy, slippery debris. Search dogs and cadaver dogs are sniffing crushed houses. Other crews wield chain saws or backhoes.

Snohomish County fire chief Travis Hots describes this as both a rescue -- and recovery operation.

“Even if we just said, ‘It’s just a recovery operation,’ we are still going at this on all eight cylinders. We’re going at this hard to get everybody that is out there missing.”

The number listed as missing and unaccounted for fluctuated wildly yesterday after restored telephone and internet service allowed people to check in from upstream of the landslide. Snohomish County’s emergency management director says he hopes to release a credible and better verified number later today.

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.