| DARRINGTON, Wash., March 27
DARRINGTON, Wash., March 27 At least 25 people
were confirmed dead almost a week after landslide sent mud
crashing into dozens of rural Washington state homes, searchers
said, as locals faced up to the prospect that some of the 90
still missing might never be found.
As the death toll ticked slowly higher late on Wednesday, a
deeply traumatized community rallied round to comfort the
bereaved and support rescue crews with everything from free food
to prayer vigils.
Stores in nearby Arlington put up handed-painted signs
calling for solidarity and donations, boy scouts collected food
outside a market and a bowling league offered tournament prize
money to relief efforts.
Construction worker Steve Findley cooked breakfast for
dozens of residents inside an Arlington middle school that the
American Red Cross had transformed into a temporary shelter.
"All the people I know are gone," he said.
"This is a very strong community... We all stick together,"
said 25-year-old Jamie Olsen as her husband and about 40 people
in another nearby town Darrington sorted water, food, diapers
and other supplies for families forced out of their homes.
A rain-soaked hillside collapsed near the tiny town of Oso,
about 55 miles (90 km) northeast of Seattle last Saturday,
cascading over a river and a road into homes, blanketing about a
square mile in muck and debris.
About 200 searchers combed through the disaster zone under
cloudy skies on Wednesday. Rain was forecast on Thursday.
Emergency crews used dogs, small cameras and sophisticated
listening devices to try and find buried bodies as other workers
removed debris by hand.
Late on Wednesday evening Brian McMahan, assistant fire
chief of the community of Mukilteo, told a community meeting in
Darrington that one additional body had been found that day,
bringing the known total to 25.
President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration
ordering U.S. government assistance to supplement state and
local relief efforts. A local disaster relief account had nearly
$50,000 in it on Thursday.
"THIS IS PERSONAL"
Authorities who whittled down a list of missing from about
176 people to 90 have said the victims could also include people
from outside the community, such as construction workers or
Eight more people survived the slide but were injured,
including a 22-week-old baby rescued with his mother and listed
in critical condition although he was improving. The mother and
three other survivors also remained hospitalized.
Asked whether he expected the death toll to rise
significantly, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee told CNN:
"Yes, I don't think anyone can reach any other conclusion."
Jan McClelland, a volunteer firefighter from Darrington who
was among the first to arrive at the scene, conceded it was
possible some bodies may end up forever entombed at the site.
"I'm fearful we won't find everyone," she said. "That's the
reality of it."
The slide ranks among the worst in the United States. In
1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and floods in
Virginia, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
More than 100 houses were destroyed by a slow-moving
landslide in the Washington state town of Kelso in the late
In Arlington, storefront signs pointed the way to church
vigils and plates of spaghetti.
"This is personal ... It's all about giving back what little
I can," said Anita O'Sullivan, who had placed a sign in the
window of her hair salon saying $5 from every cut would go to
the relief effort. She had raised $240 by Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Bryan Cohen in Arlington, Wash. and
Bill Rigby in Seattle; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by