SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 25, 2014

Search for mudslide survivors grows

(Continued)

Retired firefighter Gail Moffett, who lives in Oso, said she knows about 25 people who are missing, including entire families with young children.

“It’s safe to say I’ll know everyone affected or who they are,” Moffett said. “There’s so much pain going on in the community right now.”

Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said the list of 108 names included construction workers who were working in the area and people just driving by. But, he cautioned, that does not necessarily mean there are dozens of additional fatalities.

“It’s a soft 108,” Pennington said, explaining that the number would almost certainly fall as people are slowly located.

The spirits of search-and-rescue teams were raised late Saturday when they heard cries for help from the flotsam of trees, dirt and shattered wood. But no one else has been found alive.

Three people were confirmed dead on Saturday. By late Sunday, the number of fatalities had risen to eight.

The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, which is continuing to back up, officials said. Authorities said Monday at least seven homes are now flooded, and more flooding is expected.

Frequent, heavy rain and steep geography make the area prone to landslides. Less than a decade ago, another slide hit in the same general area.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as “a square mile of total devastation” after flying over the disaster area Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones. Inslee said Monday that he had received assurances that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would help.

Bruce Blacker, who lives just west of the slide, doesn’t know the whereabouts of six neighbors.

“It’s a very close-knit community,” Blacker said as he waited at an Arlington roadblock before troopers let him through.

Barbara Welsh went to Monday’s news briefing in Arlington to get more information. She said she has not seen her husband, William Welsh, since Saturday, when he went to help someone in Oso with a water tank.

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