Washington authorities on Wednesday reduced to 90 the number of people missing from a community wiped out by a mudslide, as the families and friends of those still unaccounted for begin to confront the reality that some may never be found.
No victims were recovered Wednesday, leaving the official death toll at 16, with an additional nine bodies located but not recovered, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said. Authorities said they expected to update the toll Thursday morning.
The number of missing had been fluctuating — at one point reaching as high as 220 — but authorities were able to verify that 140 people once reported missing had been located, Pennington said.
That left 90 people still missing, plus 35 others who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the slide. Authorities will focus on finding those 90, but Pennington acknowledged that not everybody may be located.
"Would I like to see it drop to zero? Yes. Do I think it will? No," he said.
The revised numbers come at the end of a rain-soaked fifth day of searching for survivors in the small community of Oso, some 55 miles north of Seattle. But as time passes and the death toll continues to rise, the chances grow increasingly dim of finding people alive amid the debris.
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