This is just awful.
As the search for survivors of a destructive Washington state mudslide ballooned Monday to include scores of people who were still unaccounted for, the death toll from the wall of trees, rocks and debris that swept through a rural community rose to at least 14.
In the struggle to find loved ones, family members and neighbors used chain saws and their bare hands to dig through wreckage that was tangled by the mud into broken piles.
Late Monday, the list of potentially missing people topped 176 following the disaster Saturday about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. But Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington stressed that authorities believed the number included many duplicate names.
“The 176, I believe very strongly is not a number we’re going to see in fatalities. I believe it’s going to drop dramatically,” he said.
The number of those possibly missing grew dramatically from an estimated 108 earlier Monday. But Pennington said the list was compiled from information provided by the public, and officials were trying to cross off reports that likely described the same person. The list included construction workers who were working in the area and people just driving by.
The lack of definitive information two days after the massive slide destroyed a cluster of homes at the bottom of a river valley ratcheted up anxieties.
“The situation is very grim,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said, stressing that authorities are still in rescue mode and are holding out hope. But he noted: “We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday.”
Climate Change May Make Terrible Mudslides More Common
You can make this stuff up. Actually, they do.