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List Of Those Missing In Washington Mudslide Shrinks By Two-Thirds

Crews work at the mudslide site Oso, Wash., Saturday, one week after a massive mudslide devastated a small community. Officials have dropped the number of missing people from 90 to 30.
David Ryder
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Crews work at the mudslide site Oso, Wash., Saturday, one week after a massive mudslide devastated a small community. Officials have dropped the number of missing people from 90 to 30.

Update at 10:30 p.m. Death toll increased

On Sunday, the number of people that have been confirmed dead from the mudslide has been increased from 18 to 21, according to Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

The Associated Press has more:

Fifteen of the victims have been identified by the Snohomish County medical examiner, and six have yet to be identified, Biermann said.

Another four bodies were found in the debris field on Sunday, but they won't be added to the official count until the medical examiner receives the bodies. Biermann said 30 people remain missing.

Our original post continues:

Officials say 18 people died in the devastating landslide that hit northeast of Seattle last weekend. Crews are working to find and identify victims — and to account for people who had been listed as missing. In a bit of good news for the area, the number of missing has dropped from 90 to 30.

The list of the missing has continued to shrink since early reports that nearly 200 people were unaccounted for in the aftermath of the massive mudslide.

But even as crews recover bodies from the debris, medical examiners are having trouble identifying victims. Remains of as many as 10 bodies have been recovered that are not yet included in the official total, according to the Seattle Times.

"The slide hit with such force that often times, the rescuers are not recovering full, intact victims," says Jason Biermann of the Snohomish County Office of Emergency Management.

That's from a report filed from Arlington, Wash., for our Newscast unit by Chris Lehman of the Northwest News Network. He also describes how residents are coping:

"Steve Schertzinger is a local police who's been working with victims' families. He says regardless of the final tally, he expects the sorrow to hang over this community long after the search is done.

" 'This was not an event. This really is a whole season. So it won't even be over when the last body is found. It will continue on,' Schertzinger says.

"Heavy rains have hampered search efforts but crews have managed to finish a primitive road linking one side of the landslide site to the other."

The Seattle Times reports that local volunteers are helping with the recovery effort. They include Forrest Thompson, 18, a logger who the paper says helped convince officials that the locals could help.

"We pretty much just buck the root wads and trees off the top," Thompson tells the newspaper. "If we do find somebody underneath a pile of logs, we just buck everything out of the way, and dig it out by hand rather than by machine."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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