Americas

Tuesday 29 July 2014

US mudslide death toll rises as workers continue recovering bodies

Published 01/04/2014|16:23

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OSO, WA - MARCH 25: A search and rescue worker looks for survivors in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide  on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
A search and rescue worker begins looking for survivors in the aftermath of the mudslide

The official death toll from the US mudslide has increased to 27, with medical officials saying 19 victims have been positively identified.

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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.

A rescuer stands on a flooded Highway 530 as search work continues in the mud and debris from a massive mudslide that struck Oso near Darrington, Washington March 27, 2014. Rescuers searching for 90 people still missing five days after the massive Washington state mudslide said they expect the death toll to climb sharply soon, even as they clung to hope on Thursday of finding a miracle survivor.  REUTERS/Ted S. Warren/Pool  (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A rescuer stands on the flooded Highway 530 as search work continues in the mud and debris from a massive mudslide that struck Oso, Washington last week. Rescuers are searching for 90 people still missing and are expecting the death toll to climb sharply soon
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: A search and rescue worker looks for survivors in the aftermath of a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide  on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
A search and rescue worker begins looking for survivors in the aftermath of the mudslide
A house is seen destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near mile marker 37 near Oso, Washington.  At least six homes have been washed away, with three people reported dead so far and at least eighteen missing. The nearby Stillaguamish River has been dammed up by 15-20 feet of debris as a result, creating more flooding concerns, as reported by KING 5 via the state hydrologist.  (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)
A house is seen destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37, the day after the giant landslide. AP

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.

Press Association

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