Monday, November 20, 2017

A community 'changed forevermore' by deadly slide

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DARRINGTON, Wash. — The number of those believed missing following a deadly Washington state landslide has plummeted to 30 after many people were found safe, authorities said late Saturday.

Officials previously set the number of missing people at 90, but said they expected that figure to drop dramatically as they worked to find people and cross-referenced a list that included partial reports and duplicates.

The confirmed death toll rose by one, to 18, Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, said at a Saturday evening briefing.

The search by heavy equipment, dogs and bare hands for victims from the slide was going "all the way to the dirt" as crews looked for anything to provide answers for family and friends a week after a small mountainside community was destroyed.

All work on the debris field halted briefly Saturday for a moment of silence to honor those lost. Gov. Jay Inslee had asked people across Washington to pause at 10:37 a.m., the time the huge slide struck on March 22, destroying a neighborhood in the community of Oso north of Seattle.

"People all over stopped work — all searchers — in honor of that moment, so people we are searching for know we are serious," Snohomish County Fire District 1 battalion chief Steve Mason said.

Dan Rankin, mayor of the nearby logging town of Darrington, said the community had been "changed forevermore."

"It's going to take a long time to heal, and the likelihood is we will probably never be whole," he said.

Finding and identifying all the victims could stretch on for a long time, and authorities warned that not everyone may be accounted for after one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history.

Dogs working four-hour shifts have been the most useful tool, said Steve Harris, division supervisor for the eastern incident management team, but they're getting hypothermic in the rain and muck.

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