• Number of missing person reports to be updated; 24 believed dead


    ARLINGTON, Wash. - Authorities said they expect an updated number soon of the reports of people believed missing following a massive, deadly landslide in Oso.

    Officials are working off a list of 176 people unaccounted for, though some names are thought to be duplicates, and the number should decrease. Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington says they'll have a revised figure later Wednesday that will likely decrease.

    The bodies of two more victims were recovered at the site of the landslide Tuesday, but eight more were found that have yet to be retrieved, bringing the unofficial death toll to 24.  Authorities are reporting the death toll as 16 because only two more bodies had been recovered as of Tuesday night.  Once others are recovered, they will be added to the official toll.

    Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots said more than 200 rescuers searched Tuesday.

    With search and cadaver dogs leading the way, rescuers using small bulldozers and their bare hands pushed through sludge strewn with splintered homes and twisted cars.

     “The dogs have been most effective at locating people,” said Hots. “When the dogs get a hit in an area, in some cases we utilize sophisticated electronic equipment that can get into void spaces and look.”

    In light of the grim developments, a new hotline is available for anyone struggling to deal with the disaster.   Snohomish County established the number -- 1-800-584-3578 -- for victims, community members or anyone who wants to talk.

    On Wednesday, a family assistance center will be up and running in Arlington to help people whose loved ones were killed or missing.

    Grief counselors and people close to the search and rescue effort will be able to talk about their progress and challenges.

    For survivors who are displaced, the Red Cross has made some progress finding temporary housing in addition to the shelter that's been in place.

    Despite the discoveries of more bodies as the search entered its fifth day Wednesday -- and the likelihood that more bodies will be found -- officials were still hoping to find survivors.

     "We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area," said Hots.

    Photos of some of the missing and dead can be viewed here.

     See photos of the disaster here.

    Sources told KIRO 7 that 40 more body bags were delivered to rescue teams and the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management requested an on-site state mortuary assistance team respond immediately.  That team is already working with the county's medical examiner's office.

    "That mortuary assistance team is pretty common in large scale events like this. There's a point at which you bring them in, and that is this particular point," said John Pennington with the Snohomish County DEM.

    With the increased help, recovery efforts are expected to move more quickly but it's still expected to take weeks, if not months.

    Looking ahead, the National Weather Service said rain and showers forecast through Saturday in Western Washington will make the search and recovery effort messy and also increase soil instability in the area.  

    Forecasters said 1 to 3 inches of rain could fall by the weekend, adding moisture to hillsides. Part of the landslide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River at Oso, and though the river is flowing through the blockage, forecasters said there is some flooding upstream and the threat of a flash flood downstream if the debris dam suddenly gave way.

    Anyone who has a missing a loved one who may have been in the area of the landslide is asked to call the Department of Emergency Management call center with as much information as possible at 425-388-5088.

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