Officials are losing hope as search and rescue missions continue to look for survivors of a massive landslide that devastated the town of Oslo, Washington over the weekend. So far, 14 are confirmed dead, and many others are missing or unaccounted for.
"I'm very disappointed to tell you that we didn't find any sign of any survivors, and we found no survivors today," local fire chief Travis Hots said late on Monday, adding, "the situation is very grim."
Authorities say that 176 are listed as missing — much higher than the earlier estimate of 18 — but that they are confident the figure will be revised downwards as communications are restored and people return to the area. Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said on Monday that "I believe very strongly  is not a number we're going to see in fatalities... I believe it's going to drop dramatically." The list of names, he said, is a list of those reported missing that likely includes duplicates and others who are expected to turn up unharmed. He also said, however, that "I believe it's fair to say that most of us in these communities believe that we will not find any individuals alive... we are moving towards a recovery operation."
The disaster took place on Saturday morning, at about 10:45 a.m., according to CNN:
The landslide covered about a square mile and was caused by groundwater saturation tied to heavy rain in the area over the past month. It affected Oso, with a population of about 180, and Darrington, a town of about 1,350.... Dave Norman, a Washington state geologist, said the landslide was about 4,400 feet wide with a wide debris field. In some places, the debris is 30-40 feet thick. "This is one of the biggest landslides I have ever seen," Norman said.
Officials said that 35 homes have been destroyed, in addition to 13 manufactured homes, including RVs and a cabin. Fox News reports that officials are having a hard nailing down a list of missing because they don't know how many of the homes were occupied when the landslide took place. Another difficulty is posed by the muddy conditions, which residents have described as similar to quicksand. "One of the folks out there told me, 'Chief, sometimes it takes five minutes to walk 40 or 50 feet,'" said Hots.
On Monday, President Barack Obama signed a federal emergency declaration order for the area, and FEMA shipments began arriving late on Monday night, with more expected today. Residents of the area were warned that flash floods could follow the landslide, but that risk has diminished. Seven homes remain evacuated.