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Death toll in Washington state mudslide continues to rise

Published time: March 26, 2014 14:54
This photo obtained March 26, 2014, courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation shows state road(SR) 530 covered in mud from a landslide in Oso, Washington, on March 22, 2014 (AFP Photo)

This photo obtained March 26, 2014, courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation shows state road(SR) 530 covered in mud from a landslide in Oso, Washington, on March 22, 2014 (AFP Photo)

According to Reuters, officials from Snohomish County – where the town of Oso is located and was struck by the disaster – announced they’ve discovered two additional bodies in the mud, and have possibly found another eight that haven’t been retrieved yet.

"We can confirm that we have recovered 2 more bodies, bringing our total to 16, and believe we have located an additional 8," the Snohomish County Twitter feed said in a post.

Until those eight bodies are identified, the official death toll will stay at 16.

Meanwhile, about 176 people are unaccounted for – an increase from Monday’s count, which stood at around 100 – but officials told Reuters that some individuals may have been double counted, while others may have simply not informed their families of their whereabouts. As RT reported previously, only 18 people were thought to be missing at first, but that number was revised after being informed people had yet to hear from their family members.

According to BBC News, there have been no survivors found since Saturday, March 22, when the slide initially occurred. The incident involved a collapsing hillside near the small town of Oso, where the mudslide flowed over a river and destroyed about 30 houses, burying them along with cars and other things in the aftermath. In total, the mudslide covered about one square-mile of the town.

In the search for survivors, rescue workers are using dogs, listening devices and cameras, laser-imaging equipment, and helicopters to scour the area. Local fire chief Travis Hots acknowledged that the chances of finding anyone alive may be slim, but that the search wouldn’t let up.

"We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we could find somebody alive," local fire chief Travis Hots said on Tuesday evening, according to BBC.

"We are coming to the realisation that that may not be a possibility - but we are going full steam ahead,” he added. "We are going at this hard to get everybody that's out there that's missing"

Meanwhile, speaking in the Netherlands, President Obama announced he had declared an emergency at the scene and directed government officials to work with local agencies in order to help the rescue effort.

"We know that part of this tightly knit community has been lost … I would just ask all Americans to send their thoughts and prayers to Washington State and the community of Oso, and the families and friends of those who continue to be missing,” he said. “We hope for the best, but we recognize this is a tough situation.”