Five days after a mudslide abruptly devastated the town of Oso, Washington, rescuers have counted 25 deaths and still have 90 people missing.
The number of deaths is expected to rise sharply in the coming days as the recovery effort continues to sift through debris. The mud may be as deep as 30 to 40 feet in some areas. “In the next 24 to 48 hours, as the medical examiner’s office catches up with the difficult work that they have to do, you’re going to see these numbers increase substantially,” said local fire chief Travis Hots.
Snohomish County officials are pessimistic about the possibility of finding more survivors in the mud. They said that all known survivors were rescued by helicopters in the first few hours after the landslide.
Forensic teams—more than 200 workers in all—are continuing to inspect every house hit by the mud for signs of life. They are waist deep at points and equipment continually jams with mud. Some in the surrounding community have criticized officials for refusing to allow volunteers to help in the search in the slide’s immediate aftermath.