DARRINGTON, Wash. – Rescuers searching for 90 people still missing five days after a massive mudslide in Washington state braced the public on Thursday for an impending steep rise in the death toll even as they sought to deflect criticism about the early disaster response.
At least 25 people are known to have died when a rain-soaked hillside collapsed without warning on Saturday, unleashing a wall of mud that engulfed dozens of homes in a river valley near the rural town of Oso, 55 miles (89 km) northeast of Seattle.
Snohomish County officials said that 17 casualties had been sent to the medical examiner’s office as of Thursday evening, including an infant whose body was recovered earlier in the day.
But fire district chief Travis Hots said that figure would soon climb sharply higher. At least nine more bodies that have since been found have yet to be added to the official toll.
“In the next 24 to 48 hours, as the medical examiner’s office catches up with the difficult work that they have to do, you’re going to see these numbers increase substantially,” he said.
Snohomish County officials said on Wednesday about 90 people remained missing, down from 176, and Hots said on Thursday the revised figure was holding. An estimated 180 people lived in the path of the landslide.
Read more: Toronto Sun