As the death toll ticked slowly higher late on Wednesday, a deeply
traumatized community rallied round to comfort the bereaved and
support rescue crews with everything from free food to prayer
Stores in nearby Arlington put up handed-painted signs calling for
solidarity and donations, boy scouts collected food outside a market
and a bowling league offered tournament prize money to relief
Construction worker Steve Findley cooked breakfast for dozens of
residents inside an Arlington middle school that the American Red
Cross had transformed into a temporary shelter.
"All the people I know are gone," he said.
"This is a very strong community... We all stick together," said
25-year-old Jamie Olsen as her husband and about 40 people in
another nearby town Darrington sorted water, food, diapers and other
supplies for families forced out of their homes.
A rain-soaked hillside collapsed near the tiny town of Oso, about 55
miles northeast of Seattle last Saturday, cascading over a river and
a road into homes, blanketing about a square mile in muck and
About 200 searchers combed through the disaster zone under cloudy
skies on Wednesday. Rain was forecast on Thursday.
Emergency crews used dogs, small cameras and sophisticated listening
devices to try and find buried bodies as other workers removed
debris by hand.
Late on Wednesday evening Brian McMahan, assistant fire chief of the
community of Mukilteo, told a community meeting in Darrington that
one additional body had been found that day, bringing the known
total to 25.
President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration ordering
U.S. government assistance to supplement state and local relief
efforts. A local disaster relief account had nearly $50,000 in it on
"THIS IS PERSONAL"
Authorities who whittled down a list of missing from about 176
people to 90 have said the victims could also include people from
outside the community, such as construction workers or passing
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Eight more people survived the slide but were injured, including a
22-week-old baby rescued with his mother and listed in critical
condition although he was improving. The mother and three other
survivors also remained hospitalized.
Asked whether he expected the death toll to rise significantly,
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee told CNN: "Yes, I don't think
anyone can reach any other conclusion."
Jan McClelland, a volunteer firefighter from Darrington who was
among the first to arrive at the scene, conceded it was possible
some bodies may end up forever entombed at the site.
"I'm fearful we won't find everyone," she said. "That's the reality
The slide ranks among the worst in the United States. In 1969, 150
people were killed in landslides and floods in Virginia, according
to the U.S. Geological Survey.
More than 100 houses were destroyed by a slow-moving landslide in
the Washington state town of Kelso in the late 1990s.
In Arlington, storefront signs pointed the way to church vigils and
plates of spaghetti.
"This is personal ... It's all about giving back what little I can,"
said Anita O'Sullivan, who had placed a sign in the window of her
hair salon saying $5 from every cut would go to the relief effort.
She had raised $240 by Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Bryan Cohen in Arlington, Wash. and Bill
Rigby in Seattle; writing by Eric M. Johnson; editing by Andrew
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