About a dozen workers kept up the search overnight for as many as
176 people who have been reported missing since a rain-soaked
hillside collapsed on Saturday morning, swallowing dozens of homes
near Oso, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said.
Compounding their sense of urgency was a fear of flooding as water
levels rose behind a crude dam of mud and rubble that had been
dumped into the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River by the slide
in an area along State Route 530, about 55 miles northeast of
Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest state.
Authorities were hoping the number of people listed as missing would
decline as they had perhaps been double-counted or had been slow to
alert family and officials about their whereabouts.
The rescuers, using dogs, earth-moving equipment and aircraft, had
failed to locate any more people in the rubble early on Tuesday.
"This is an extremely difficult and emotional time for the families
and friends of those impacted by the Oso mudslide," Washington state
Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.
"Family members are grieving, trying to focus on finding missing
loved ones or working through the process of rebuilding what was
lost," Inslee said.
President Barack Obama, who was in Europe on Monday for a meeting
with world leaders, signed an emergency declaration ordering U.S.
government assistance to supplement state and local relief efforts,
the White House said.
More than 100 properties were hit by the mudslide. Eight people were
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A 22-week-old baby injured in the slide remained in critical
condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after being taken
there by helicopter along with his mother, who also was hurt, the
hospital said early on Tuesday.
A report filed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1999
highlighting "the potential for a large catastrophic failure" was
one of many warnings issued about the area where the disaster
occurred, the Seattle Times newspaper reported.
The rescue effort after Saturday's mudslide has been fraught with
treacherous conditions and stalled efforts.
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.
Search crew workers were forced again to briefly retreat on Monday
from the western edge of the slide area after movement was detected
along a 1,500-foot (460-meter) stretch of earth.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in Arlington, Wash.;
writing by Eric
M. Johnson in Seattle; editing by Gareth Jones)
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