Oso, Wash. • The search for survivors of a deadly Washington state mudslide grew Monday to include scores of people who were still unaccounted for as the death toll from the wall of trees, rocks and debris that swept through a rural community rose to at least 14.
In the struggle to find loved ones, family members and neighbors used chain saws and their bare hands to dig through wreckage.
Authorities said they were looking for more than 100 people who had not been heard from since the disaster. They predicted that the number of missing would decline as more people are found to be safe. But the startling initial length of the list added to the anxieties two days after a mile-wide layer of soft earth crashed onto a cluster of homes at the bottom of a river valley.
"The situation is very grim," said Travis Hots, Snohomish County Fire District 21 chief, stressing that authorities are still in rescue mode and are holding out hope. But he noted: "We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday."
About 30 houses were destroyed, and the debris blocked a mile-long stretch of state highway about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.
Elaine Young and her neighbors uncovered several bodies Sunday and had to contact authorities to get them removed. They also found a chocolate Labrador named Buddy alive.
Authorities believe Saturday’s slide was caused by recent heavy rains that made the terrain unstable.
From the beginning, rescue crews on the ground have faced dangerous and unpredictable conditions as they navigated quicksand-like mud and debris that was 15 feet deep in some places. Some who went in got caught up to their armpits in the sludge.
John Pennington, Snohomish County Emergency Management director, said the list of 108 names included construction workers working in the area and people just driving by. But, he cautioned, it does not necessarily mean there are dozens of additional fatalities.
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