Friday 30 January 2015

US mudslide death toll rises as workers continue recovering bodies

Published 01/04/2014 | 16:23

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.

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.

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
A search and rescue worker begins looking for survivors in the aftermath of the mudslide
A flower cross memorial is set up outside the Oso Community Chapel for victims of the mudslide
A helicopter flies low close to the section of hill which collapsed as search work continues in the mud and debris the mudslide left behind
A rescue worker looks over the massive debris pile the mudslide left in its wake
Search and rescue teams continue to work, sifting through the devastation as they cling on to hope of finding a miracle survivor
Workers gather at the scene of the mudslide. Some residents voiced anger that they were prevented from helping in the initial disaster response seven days ago
Destroyed vehicles and debris left after the mudslide struck
A wrecked ATV is seen at the scene of the Oso mudslide
A line of rescue workers arrives to look for victims in the mudslide near Oso, Washington as efforts continued to locate victims. The death toll from a massive landslide in Washington state stood at 24 on Wednesday, but the mud-stricken community braced for a higher body count as search teams combed through debris looking for scores of people still missing four days after the disaster. Reuters
Rescue workers look for victims in the mudslide near Oso. Reuters
A bulldozer lifts a wrecked vehicle in the mudslide. Reuters
Snohomish County Fire Chief Steve Mason (L) talks with a chaplain near the mudslide. Reuters
Rescue workers look for victims in the mudslide. Reuters
The massive mudslide that killed at least 24 people and left scores missing is shown in this aerial photo near Arlington, Wash. Photo: AP
Rescue workers searched through mucky rubble on Tuesday with hopes dwindling of finding any more survivors from among scores of people still missing. Reuters
A large number of volunteers have turned out, wanting to help with the search. AP
The hillside which collapsed and produced the mudslide near Oso. AP
A house destroyed by the massive mudslide. AP
A view of the damage from Saturday's mudslide near Oso, Washington. At least fourteen people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle on Saturday. AP
Brian Anderson, left, and Coby Young search through the wreckage of a home belonging to the Kuntz family. The entire Kuntz family was at a baseball game Saturday morning when a fatal mudslide swept through the area. The family returned Sunday to search through what remained. AP
The hillside which collapsed and produced the mudslide near Oso. AP
A bouquet of flowers left for victims sits perched on the seat of an abandoned vehicle in the wreckage of homes. AP
A structure sits in ruins in the aftermath of the mudslide and related flooding. Getty Images
Rescue workers remove a body from the wreckage of homes destroyed by Saturday's mudslide. AP
A helicopter flies low over the mudslide effected area. AP
A house is seen destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37, the day after the giant landslide. AP

"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.

Press Association

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