It's day six of the search and rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Oso, Washington. The death toll stands right now at 26. Ninety people are still reported missing. That's left many families in limbo waiting for news. NPR's Martin Kaste reports on why the recovery work has been so excruciatingly slow.
Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots was not at the press conferences on Wednesday after he was urged to get some rest in the wake of the ongoing response to the fatal Oso mudslide.
Instead, Hots said he headed to the site of the slide to survey the area and interact with the volunteers who continue to dig through the swampy conditions with bulldozers, shovels and their hands in an attempt to find people believed to be buried in the mud.
Bob DeYoung has been volunteering in the search efforts at the Oso mudslide. The three people he has found are people he knows, including a child. His wife Julie DeYoung has been cooking at the Darrington community center.
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.
Marcie Sillman talks with Scott Burns, a geologist and landslide expert at Portland State University, about how he hopes the tragedy in Oso will lead to landslide insurance for homeowners and better landslide hazard maps to prevent future devastation.
As search efforts intensify around the site of Washington state’s devastating mudslide, geologists are looking into causes of the rapid collapse of the 1,500-foot-wide segment of hillside in Snohomish County that suddenly cut away and crushed the homes and roads below.
The chief culprit appears to have been the glacial composition of the hillside, which is made of silt, clay and soil, and very little rock, which tends to be very loose.
Rescuers are employing high tech electronics to help locate buried victims in the Oso mudslide. But old fashioned tools have actually worked best according to local fire chief Travis Hots.
“In the last three days, the most effective tool has been dogs and just our bare hands and shovels uncovering people," he says. "The dogs are the ones that are pinpointing a particular area to look. We’re looking and that’s how we’re finding people.”