The death toll from a mudslide that left 90 people missing in Washington state is expected to climb higher nearly a week after the disaster, while persistant rain and strong winds are adding to the challenges of the rescue team.
Authorities on Friday said that another body had been found in the field of debris left behind after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed near the small town of Oso in Snohomish county, about 60 miles north of Seattle. The new discovery brings the presumed death count to 27, based on the number of bodies officials have confirmed finding. The massive mudslide occurred just before 11 a.m. last Saturday, and was at least 135 feet wide and 180 feet deep in size. Officials have said that it destroyed a neighborhood of about 30 homes, blocked State Route 530, and jammed the north fork of the Stillaguamish River.
"The operations folks made me aware this afternoon that they did locate one more victim in the debris field, but we are not including that in our total until they actually reach the medical examiner's office," Gary Haakenson, Snohomish County's executive director, reportedly said in an evening news conference Friday.
While the search for the victims of the disaster continues, heavy rain was a hindrance to the rescue operation. According to the National Weather Service's forecast, rain was likely to continue over the weekend and into the week.
"The weather is basically working against us," Travis Hots, fire chief of Snohomish County, reportedly said.
According to CNN, the areas that had dried up are now saturated again, while pools and puddles have been filling even more. The pace of the rescue operation is moving slowly as people wait to get some word on survivors and deaths.
"It just makes things slower and more complicated,” Hots reportedly said of the condition.
Snohomish County executive director Haakenson said Friday evening, "It's a very, very slow process,” adding: "It was miserable to begin with, and ... it's rained heavily in the past few days. It's made the quicksand even worse."