Confirmed death toll from Washington state mudslide climbs

(ARLINGTON, Wash (Reuters) – The confirmed death toll from a devastating weekend mudslide in Washington state climbed to 14 people yesterday as six more bodies were found, while scores of people remained listed as missing two days after the tragedy, authorities said.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s office reported the higher casualty count via Twitter hours after emergency management officials expressed doubt anyone else would be plucked alive from the muck that engulfed dozens of homes when a rain-soaked hillside near Oso, Washington, collapsed on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, concern lingered about flooding from water backing up behind a crude dam of mud and rubble dumped into a river by the slide in an area along State Route 530 about 55 miles (90 km) northeast of Seattle.

“The situation is very grim,” said Travis Hots, Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief. “We’re still holding out hope that we’re going to be able to find people that may still be alive. But keep in mind we haven’t found anybody alive on this pile since Saturday in the initial stages of our operation.”

Several dozen homes in all were believed to have sustained some damage from the slide, John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, told reporters at a command post in the nearby town of Arlington.

More than 100 properties in all were hit by the cascading mud, 49 of which had a house, cabin or mobile home on them. At least 25 of those homes were believed to have been occupied year round, and 10 others were part-time or vacation homes, Pennington said.

The search for victims resumed under partly cloudy skies yesterday after treacherous quicksand-like conditions forced rescue workers to suspend their efforts at dusk on Sunday. Some workers, mired in mud up to their armpits, had to be dragged to safety.

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