US mudslide death toll rises as workers continue recovering bodies
Published 01/04/2014 | 16:23
The official death toll from the US mudslide has increased to 27, with medical officials saying 19 victims have been positively identified.
That figure is up from 24 confirmed dead yesterday with 18 identified by Snohomish County medical examiner's office in Washington state.
Workers are trying to improve the flow of the Stillaguamish River through the landslide at Oso to reduce flooding as they continue the task of recovering bodies.
The latest name on the list is 58-year-old Brandy L Ward, of Arlington. Like the rest she was killed by blunt force injuries in the March 22 mudslide.
The slide struck a rural area north-east of Seattle on March 22.
Steve Harris, a division supervisor for the search effort, said search teams are learning more about the force of the mudslide, and that is helping them locate victims in a debris field that is 70ft deep in places.
"There's a tremendous amount of force and energy behind this," Mr Harris said.
He said search dogs are the primary tool for finding remains in the small, mountainside community about 55 miles from Seattle. Searchers are finding human remains four to six times per day.
A makeshift road completed over the weekend links one side of the 300-acre debris field to the other.
Searchers have had to contend with treacherous conditions, including household chemicals, septic tanks, petrol and propane containers. When rescuers and dogs leave the site, they are hosed off by hazardous materials crews.
Governor Jay Inslee yesterday asked president Barack Obama for a major disaster declaration in Snohomish County to make programmes available to help individuals, households and businesses.
Last week, a federal emergency declaration was approved that provided a federal disaster team and specialised personnel to the slide area.
Estimated financial losses have reached 10 million dollars (£6 million), Mr Inslee said, adding that about 30 families need assistance with housing, along with personal and household goods.