As the local community held Sunday church services a week after the devastating Oso mudslide, searchers continued their work in the sodden destruction zone.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner confirmed on Sunday evening that 21 people have died in the mudslide. Of these, only 15 have been officially identified.
The number of missing remains at 30. Jason Biermann, program manager for the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, said an additional four bodies were recovered Sunday from the muddy debris, but they have not been included in the official list of fatalities.
This is the second wettest March on record for Arlington and Darrington, and over the last few days, the rain brought serious challenges. Plus, there's the emotional toll no matter what the weather looks like.
"Right now we are in the process of rotating crews. The crews who have been out there have been working for nearly a week virtually nonstop in very tough conditions," Biermann said. "The number of personnel in the field is not going to change. We will continue to operate with same number of crews, the same number of personnel, but giving those crews a break and operating as safely and as efficiently as we can."
Governor Jay Inslee surveyed the Oso mudslide area by helicopter again on Sunday afternoon.
After touching down in Arlington, Inslee said the site has changed considerably since his initial visit to Oso on March 23. He acknowledged that the infrastructure on the site has allowed for more heavy equipment to assist with the search.
With more than 600 people working on both sides of the landslide, Inslee said the mission statement continues to focus on finding possible survivors.
“The family members I have spoken to, I think have a very mature, real sense of wanting to have hope and wanting to find that miracle,” Inslee said. “And we are providing them every opportunity to find that miracle. We’re looking for that miracle out there right now.”
Biermann confirmed that the number of personnel and crews on the site remains the same.
The Colorado National Guard has now joined the search crews on site, and Inslee said that a grid system is being used to survey the area. Inslee said workers, sinking into the mud up to their elbows in some places, only have access to the periphery of the destruction site.
However, he also said that is where most of the victims were carried by the mudslide.
“If we don’t find that miracle, they’re also looking for the knowledge of the fates of their loved ones,” he said.
Inslee added that long-term planning is starting in regards to finding housing for those affected by the slide and for reestablishing the state Route 530 corridor. While there is no specific plan in place for getting SR 530 cleared, Inslee said he hopes to include the local families in the process.