That's a local responsibility.'No landslide
warnings for the area were issued immediately before the disaster, which came after weeks of heavy rain. but I haven't been informed of anything yet,' he said to the Seattle Times.Thomas Durnell, 65, was at home when the landslide
piled into his house and is missing according to his daughter Pam Keller.Caroline Neal hopes her missing father, Steven, 52, will still be rescued. They said it was unsafe yet they still allowed houses to be built.
PUBLISHED: 02:40 GMT, 26 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:23 GMT, 26 March 2014
The death toll from Saturday's devastating landslide in Washington is expected to rise to 24 after increasingly desperate rescuers slogging through debris recovered two bodies and believed they had located eight more, the local fire chief said on Tuesday.
The official death toll rose to 16 with the discovery of the additional victims as crews searched under drizzly skies for survivors amid fading hopes that anyone could still be plucked alive from the massive pile of mud-soaked rumble.
'Unfortunately we did not find any signs of life today, we didn't locate anybody alive, so that's the disappointing part,' local fire chief Travis Hots told a media briefing.
'It’s unimaginable, the conditions out there they’re dealing with,' Hots said.
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The devastation: This aerial photograph taken in the aftermath of the huge landslide that struck Oso in Washington state on Saturday morning shows how the hillside collapsed - while the red-dots in the diagram (inset right) represent the 30 + homes that have been leveled by the disaster
Desperate search: A member of a rescue team looks underneath a destroyed home in the debris field after the mudslide near Oso, Washington on Tuesday as a dog roams and sniffs through the debris field
Painstaking: Searchers slowly move through a field of debris following Tuesday's deadly landslide that left more than 24 people dead with dozens still missing
Inch by inch: Searchers on water and land look through the debris left by the huge landslide that struck Oso, Washington on Saturday morning - decimating the sleepy forest community
Everyone lending a hand: Joanne Varney and her husband Greg search for victims with dog Maddee, 7, in the debris field after the Oso, Washington landslide
Quicksand: Rescuers user inflatable rafts to traverse the watery sludge and debris that has built up around the rubble caused by the huge landslide that hit Oso on Saturday
Every means: A canine search and rescue team looks for victims in the debris field after the mudslide near Oso, Washington, USA, 25 March 2014
Hit like a bulldozer: Houses and other structures are shown flooded by the backed-up Stillaguamish River up-river from the massive mudslide that killed at least 24 people on Saturday and left dozens missing
The grim discoveries came three days after the collapse of a rain-soaked hillside about 55 miles north of Seattle.
Searchers had warned they were likely to find more bodies in the debris field, which covered a neighborhood of 49 structures. Authorities believe at least 25 were full-time residences.
Authorities believe that the mudslide destroyed 35 homes, as well as 13 manufactured homes, including RVs, and at least one cabin.
As many as 176 people remained listed as missing three days after the slide on Saturday, tumbling over a river, across a state road and into a rural residential area where it swallowed dozens of homes near the town of Oso.
Officials said they were hoping that number would decline as some of those listed as missing may have been double-counted or were slow to alert family and officials of their whereabouts. Eight people were injured.
But the disaster already ranks as one of the deadliest landslides in recent U.S. history. In 2005, 10 people died when a hillside gave way and engulfed homes in La Conchita, California.
'We're all still hoping for that miracle but we are preparing for the other possibility,' Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said Tuesday afternoon.
And as the rain still fell on Tuesday night, about 200 people gathered in the cold at a park in Arlington to pray for the victims, friends and family of those lost.
'Hug each other. Wipe away each other's tears,' said Pastor Chad Blood with the Lifeway Foursquare Church in Arlington.
'People are just responding,' he said. 'When a need arises they just come and take care of it until we have to turn them away. I'm speechless at times, and so very proud of out community.'
Human cost: Valene Comenout (left) and Anna Schoneker (right) hold candles on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at a candlelight vigil in Arlington, Washington, for the victims of a massive mudslide that struck the nearby community of Oso on Saturday
Prayers: People gather Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at a candlelight vigil in Arlington, for the victims of a massive mudslide that struck the nearby community of Oso, Washington
Sadness: Teresa Welter cries as she holds a candle Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at a candlelight vigil for the victims of a massive mudslide that struck Oso on Saturday
The Community Connection board at the Darrington Community Center is lined with post it notes offering rooms, places to stay, and bags of those for those displaced by the massive mudslide that occured nearby on Washington Highway 530 on Saturday
Collapsed: The hillside that fell through the town of Oso, Washington is seen from the other side of the river in this picture which illustrates the devastating power of the landslide
Boat and a bible: Elaine Young holds a Bible that she pulled out of the debris field caused by a massive mudslide on Saturday
Hope: A flag, put up by volunteers helping search the area, stands in the ruins of a home left at the end of a deadly mudslide from the now-barren hillside seen about a mile behind, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Oso, Washington
More than 100 homes were affected by the collapse of the hill and the overflowing river which now separates the town and covers one mile
Though authorities have said the chances were low of finding any more survivors in the cement-like mud blanketing the landscape, Hots said some 50 more searchers had been brought in to sift through the disaster zone in hopes of a miracle.
'This makes up over 200 responders that are here on site working very hard to locate victims and hopefully find somebody that is still alive. That is still our number-one priority out there,' he said.
Officials are compiling the list from calls from worried family members, friends and locals. Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said the number of potential missing likely includes duplicate names as people phone in reports about the same person. Authorities are working through the list, being extra cautious before they make conclusions.
'What we're finding is these vehicles are twisted and torn up in pieces.'
'It's amazing the force and magnitude what this slide has done.'
Another obstacle has been the chaotic nature of the debris field itself. In some places, the ground is covered by 15 feet of rubble.
'It's muddy in areas, it's like quicksand,' said Hots. 'One of the folks out there told me, 'Chief, sometimes it takes five minutes to walk 40 or 50 feet.'' Searchers are also running into gasoline and septic discharge and dealing with ground that geologists warn remains unstable.
At one site in a square-mile zone of devastation that once contained a meandering river surrounded by rural homes, the landslide pushed a house onto the highway, leaving nothing intact but its cedar shake roof.
Operators of excavators with clawed buckets dug through the debris, and chaplains stood by to comfort searchers and families of the missing. Hots said dogs also were being used to identify potential buried bodies, which were dug out in some cases with bulldozers or other heavy equipment.
President Barack Obama, who was in Europe for a meeting with world leaders, signed an emergency declaration ordering U.S. government assistance to supplement state and local relief efforts, the White House said.
Speaking at The Hague, where he was attending a summit, Obama began a news conference on Tuesday by addressing the disaster in Washington state and asking Americans to 'send their thoughts and prayers' to those affected by the disaster.
'We hope for the best, but we recognize this is a tough situation,' he said.
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Scarred: An aerial view shows a huge volume of earth missing from the side of a hill facing Stillaguamish River
Trees lie flat across the ground between Darrington and Arlington, Washington, after the disaster
The river's banks have collapsed and water is flooding after mud piled in from a hillside on Saturday, and remains the same today
This aerial shot was taken by Governor Jay Inslee as he helicoptered around the site while rescue workers search for survivors
What was once a uniformed line of river and street along the hillside is now a mess of mud and water
The president also called Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday to discuss the mudslide, according to Inslee's office.
Compounding the sense of urgency was a fear of flooding as water levels rose behind a crude dam of mud and rubble that was dumped into the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River by the slide.
The information-gathering process has been complicated by the nature of the rural area 55 miles north of Seattle where the slide hit Saturday morning. Pennington said officials have determined it included 49 parcels containing some kind of structure - including manufactured homes, a cabin and vacation properties. Not every structure was occupied full time. Some were only used sporadically. Complicating matters further is the fact that it's believed some nonresidents were working in the area and some victims may have been driving through the state highway that was also covered by mud.
The river was rising with rain on Tuesday, but had cut a channel through fresh mud and debris, lessening the chance of flooding, officials said.
A volunteer was injured Tuesday when he was struck by debris blown by a helicopter's rotor. The man was transported to a hospital for evaluation, but the injuries appear minor, Snohomish County sheriff's spokeswoman Shari Ireton said in a statement.
Near the southern perimeter of the slide, volunteers from a logging crew gathered to help move debris with chain saws, excavators and other heavy equipment.
Gene Karger said he could see six orange flags in the debris field, marking bodies they would be pulling out. Karger, a logger most of his life, said it was the first time he was involved in this kind of rescue work.
'You see parts of their bodies sticking out of the mud. It's real hard. It's that bad,' Karger said. 'There are people out there we know.'
Hots said about 200 responders using everything from heavy equipment and search dogs to their bare hands were working through the debris field Tuesday in rainy, wet conditions.
'We didn't locate anybody alive,' he said. 'We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area.'
More than one mile of rain-soaked hillside collapsed onto the remote town, which is just five square miles in size, at 11am on Saturday.
Three days on, hundreds of rescue workers with dogs, aircraft and sonar equipment remain scouring the wreckage for survivors in the slide which has swamped a fifth of Oso's land.
But amidst the devastation, experts have revealed they predicted this would happen in 1999.
Set side by side, the two images show how the one-mile stretch of land looked before the disaster this weekend which saw more than 176 go missing and killed 14
In a report filed with the US Army Corps of Engineers, geologists warned of 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure' 15 years ago.
'We've known it would happen at some point, we just didn't know when,' co-author Daniel Miller told The Seattle Times.
Geological reports warning the hill is in imminent danger of collapse date back to the 1950s.
The debris field is a huge, dangerous mess - 15 feet thick in some places. 'It's muddy, in areas it's like quicksand,' said Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots. "One of the folks out there told me, 'Chief, sometimes it takes five minutes to walk 40 or 50 feet.' Searchers are also running into gasoline and septic discharge and dealing with ground that geologists warn remains unstable.
But the alerts, issued by experts every ten years, went unnoticed.
And in a press conference following Saturday's slide, the head of Snohomish County's Department of Emergency Management, John Pennington, said 'it was considered very safe'.
Mr Miller said he was shocked to see houses being built around the danger zone weeks after a slide in 2006.
The slide, which was thought to be caused by heavy rain, formed a new channel along the cliff-side, but carpenters immediately set to work erecting homes along it.
'Frankly I was shocked that the county permitted any building from across the river,' Mr Miller told the paper.
In fact, the area has long been known as the 'Hazel Landslide' because of landslides over the past half-century. The last major one before Saturday's disaster was in 2006.
'We've done everything we could to protect them,' Pennington said.
Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Seattle, said it appears the report was intended not as a risk assessment, but as a feasibility study for ecosystem restoration.
Asked whether the agency should have done anything with the information, she said, 'We don't have jurisdiction to do anything. We don't do zoning. That's a local responsibility.'
No landslide warnings for the area were issued immediately before the disaster, which came after weeks of heavy rain.
Search: From a helicopter, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary surveys the wreckage of homes destroyed in Saturday's mudslide near Oso, Washington as the search for survivors grew on Monday to include scores of people who were still unaccounted for
Devastation: Search and rescue personnel continue working the area of Saturday's mudslide, at Oso, Washington
Apocalyptic: Steve Skaglund walks across the rubble on the east side of Saturday's fatal mudslide
Here rescue workers are seen removing a body from the wreckage of homes destroyed by a mudslide near Oso
This is one of the six bodies found after emergency services expressed doubt over their ability to find the missing people
Keenan Parks and his wife Chery, who live in Darrington, told MailOnline that they drive that road daily and had passed that way just the night before.
Their son darin and his wife Martha live on the edge of the devastating slide but survived.
The couple work as firefighters and the Park's said that tears poured down the couples faces as they described finding bodies in the rescue operation, some with clothes blown off from the force of the slide.
Their son described being up to his waist in mud during the recovery effort.
Still exhausted from their ordeal were on their way to check on an elderly man they are acquainted with but had not seen since Friday.
They said that they know the man, called Kurt, lived in the area of the slide but were not sure if he was home at the time.
Missing: 13-year-old Jovon Mangual,(holding his sister Brooke) stands alongside his sister Kaylee Spillers and brother Jacob (in blue t-shirt). Jacob managed to escape their Oso, Washington home on Saturday and was returned to his mother Jonielle Spillers (right). His brother and two sisters and father Billy Spillers are still missing.
Father and his children: Jovon Mangual (left in blue and right in football gear), Kaylee (as a tiger and right in pink) Brooke (pumpkin) and Jacob as a bumblebee pose for a picture on Halloween - and right with Billy Spillers - who is also missing
Mr Park said that he believes the man has sons but that they don't live in the area. They also were concerned for the cattle that he raised on his land.
Cory Kuntz and several volunteers worked Monday with chain saws to cut through the roof of his uncle's house, which was swept about 150 yards from its previous location. Kuntz said his aunt, Linda McPherson, was killed. He and the others pulled out files, his aunt's wallet and a box filled with pictures and slides.
McPherson was branch manager of the Darrington library and served for about 15 years on the local school board.
Indeed, Linda McPherson and her husband, Gary 'Mac' McPherson were sitting down to read the newspaper on Saturday morning at home when the landslide hit.
They were separated only by a living room table when trees tore through their house and simply ripped Linda and the side of the house she was sitting in 150 feet southwards away from Gary.
Gary, 81, awoke covered in mud and began to dig himself out until he was rescued by passers-by.
It was then that they discovered the body of his wife just nearby.
'When you look at it, you just kind of go in shock, and you kind of go numb,' he said, adding that there were more people out helping Sunday. On Monday, they couldn't get through roadblocks.
'They are all eager to get down here, but unfortunately they can't. It just shows how tight this community is,' he said.
Tragic: Linda McPherson was swept away by the mudslide right in front of her husband on Saturday morning
Jonielle Spillers, a nursing assistant fears that she may have lost three of her four children and her husband - while her youngest boy managed to barely escape the slide.
Her son Jovon Mangual, his half-sisters Kaylee Spillers, 5, Brooke Spillers, 2 and Jonielle's husband Billy Spillers are all missing.
According to Jovon's father, Jose Mangual, a staff sergeant in the US Army, the Spillers moved from Seattle to Oso two years ago.
He said that he had spoken to Jovon's 4-year-old half-brother Jacob Spillers who described the terrifying scene when the landslide struck.
According to Jacob, Billy Spillers - a chief petty officer in the Navy - was watching television with the three missing children when the land gave way.
Jacob said that he was on the second floor of the house and manged somehow to get away.
On her Facebook profile, Jonielle thanked everyone for their support and said she was 'not giving up and I know they will find my babies and husband....please pray for us.'
Unrecognizable: Mudflows forver changed the landscape of this area one hour north of Seattle
Other family members of the missing such as Pete Bellomo, of Bellevue spent the day trying to find out any information on his daughter Shelley and her partner Jerry Logan.
He did not hold out hope they would be found alive.
The names below are of those whose families have reported them unaccounted for to the media - The official list has still to be released:
'No, no, I don’t think there’s any chance of that ... but I haven’t been informed of anything yet,' he said to the Seattle Times.
Thomas Durnell, 65, was at home when the landslide piled into his house and is missing according to his daughter Pam Keller.
Caroline Neal hopes her missing father, Steven, 52, will still be rescued. He's a plumber who was on a service call when the land gave way.
'My dad is a quick thinker, and he is someone who takes action in an emergency,' Neal told CNN affiliate KING. 'If he had any warning at all, we just have to think he is somewhere and he's safe and they just can't reach him right now.
'None of us feel like he's gone,' his wife Brenda Neal said.
Her daughter, Sara, agreed: 'I think if anyone had a chance to getting through, it would be him.'
The waiting also came to end on Tuesday for the family of U.S. Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge, 49, whose body and that of his beloved dog were found by his brothers, his sister-in-law, Jackie Leighton, told CNN.
Still missing is Regelbrugge's wife, she added.
One retired lumber mill worker, Reed Miller, told Seattle television station KOMO-TV that his riverfront house was demolished by the slide, and that his 47-year-old son, Joseph. with whom he shared the home, was probably swept away with it.
The younger Miller, an avid fisherman and photographer, was alone in the Oso mobile home he shared with his father Saturday morning when the mudslide ran through it.
'Well, he was at home. As far as I know he's gone,' said Miller, who was at a grocery store in town at the time. 'There's no official (word) that he's been found yet, but he could be buried. I just don't know.'
Doug Reuwsaat, who grew up in the area and was also helping in the search, said authorities had told people to stay away.
'We're related to a lot of these people from around here. So that's why we're here,' he said.
Among those who are missing are the wife and granddaughter of Oso firefighter Seth Jeffereds.
He and his stepdaughter were out collecting errands when the landslide began according to him.
Christina Jeffereds, 45, was at home babysitting 4-month old Sanoah Huestis when the earth began to move.
They were joined by Doug Massingale, Christina's ex-husband.
He said he had dashed down from Sedro-Woolley, Washington, to help his 26-year-old daughter search for Sanoah and his ex-wife, who was with their granddaughter when the slide hit.
'They're still looking for her. 'I think it's going to be a long search. Big area and a little body.'
Also, Barbara Welsh, who spoke to reporters at a news briefing on Monday said that she hadn't seen her husband, William Welsh since Saturday.
Frustrations were growing as family members and neighbors waited for official word on the missing and the dead. Elaine Young and her neighbors uncovered several bodies Sunday and had to contact authorities to get them removed.
They also found a chocolate Labrador named Buddy alive, and helped pull the dog from the rubble, leading her to wonder if other survivors could be out there, desperate for help.
'If we found a dog alive yesterday afternoon that we cut out of a part of a house, doesn't that seem that maybe somebody could be stuck up under part of a house and be alive too?' asked Young, whose home survived the slide but was on the edge of the devastation.
Nichole Webb Rivera told the Seattle Times she frantically called and texted her parents, her daughter and her daughter’s fiance when the massive hillside collapsed.
Gone: The entire side of this small mountain was washed away
Rivera said her parents, Thom and Marcy Satterlee, lived near the center of the slide, and she doesn’t believe they made it out.
She said her 20-year-old daughter, Delaney Webb, and Webb’s fiance were visiting the older couple at the time.
Rivera lives in Houston but has traveled to Washington following the slide. She said Monday after visiting the area: 'We’ve lost four.'
Ronald DeQuilettes is an electrician who was working at Larry and Sandy Miller's house when the wall of mud came crashing down on them - they are all missing.
Also missing is 14-year-old Denver Harris, who may have been hiking when the mudslide came crashing down.
Also among the missing are Steve and Theresa Harris.
Their niece, Emily Christoph, one of many worried family members, holding on to the hope they will be found alive.
Missing: In this undated photo provided by Nichole Webb Rivera, her daughter, Delaney Webb, (left), and her fiance, Alan Bejvl, (left), who are missing as a result of the huge landslide are shown while (right) Thom and Marcy Satterlee who are also missing are shown
Searching: Married grandfather Steve Neal, 52, is also reportedly among the missing
Family members say Christina Jefferds and granddaughter Sanoah Huestis have both been missing since the devastating mudslide
Among the missing: Summer Raffo's family says she is still unaccounted for and may have been trapped in her vehicle
'I didn't know what to do. I was numb. I couldn't believe it. It's like you don't ever think your family would be involved in something like this,' said their niece Emily Christoph.
Also reported missing were former Alaska residents Julie Farnes and her son Adam, who were believed to be home on Saturday morning.
Her youngest brother, Richard Urton said he was losing hope. 'She was just the best sister a guy could ask for,' he said to the Anchorage Daily News.
Another sad addition to the list of people missing is Brandy Ward who was home with her husband, Tim at the time of the landslide.
Tim Ward was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a fractured pelvis, and Brandy Ward is still missing.
Ron Thompson, whose home was destroyed, stopped by the evacuation shelter at Post Middle School in Arlington to find out if his friends turned up alive. 'We lost a lot of good kids. I don’t know what else to tell you. It hurts,’ he said before driving away.
Also among the missing was a group of girls who had been having a slumber party, according to a resident interviewed by The Seattle Times.
Retired firefighter Gail Moffett, who lives in Oso, said she knows about 25 people who are missing, including entire families with young children.
'It's safe to say I'll know everyone affected or who they are,' Moffett said. 'There's so much pain going on in the community right now.'
Among the injured were a mother and her baby. Amanda Skorjanc, 25, was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.
Her son, 22-week-old Duke Suddarth, remained in critical condition and was improving, Gregg said. Three other men were in serious condition.
The search for victims resumed under partly cloudy skies on Monday after treacherous quicksand-like conditions forced rescue workers to suspend their efforts at dusk on Sunday. Some workers, mired in mud up to their armpits, had to be dragged to safety.
Staggering loss: A flag sits on top of what was Cory Kuntz and his family's home. The family was at a baseball game when the river of mud swept through the area and leveled their home
Its so sad when county officials dont listen to har...
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The comments below have not been moderated.
Tim, Port Townsend-Washington State, United States, 31 minutes ago
There's a lot of homes built on or near slide zones in both Cascade and Olympic ranges.. I really hope more survivors are found but it's not looking good at the moment. Fingers crossed.
Allan, English love it, United Kingdom, 1 hour ago
Such a shocking situation just thinking of all those poor people buried under all that mud my thoughts go out the families and as for the county officials responsible for allowing this to happen I hope that the legal system takes them to court.
Domingo Lindo, Madrid, Spain, 2 hours ago
Such a terrible tragedy, it reminds me so much of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Horseman4, Hell, United Kingdom, 1 hour ago
In what way? This is a natural disaster. The other two you mention are war zones........
lazer, London, United Kingdom, 1 hour ago
Sorry no, it reminds me of Aberfan, something I don't want to remember, as it makes me want to cry at the loss of so many children.
emilypam3la, SW. UK, 2 hours ago
Obama needs to stop the rubbish about praying and swear he will start listening to geologists warnings about future catastrophes like this! This could have been avoided!
sas09, Seattle,wa, 2 hours ago
Horrible story to read especially since I'm a Washingtonian. Hoping for the best
Hooter, Atlanta, 5 hours ago
I don't get it.... Normally existing homes are bought out by the county or state and no further building is allow. they then turn it into closed area or flood plain thing...
Dave Ninetynine, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, 5 hours ago
One can clearly see from the before photos, that landslides have occurred at that spot in the past, so why build a community directly below it!
Mmicky5050, baltimore, United States, 5 hours ago
May they rest in peace. Heart breaking.
Caligirl1968, Harrisburg pa, United States, 5 hours ago
Its so sad when county officials dont listen to hard facts. They said it was unsafe yet they still allowed houses to be built. In a zone prone to slides. Shameful and just wrong.
Lucy3350, NYC, 3 hours ago
This is what happens when politicians think they know more than the experts. Who needs the EPA or geologists when you have a bunch of dopey politicians who are willing to do anything in order to get favors and/or campaign contributions?
James0489, wales, United Kingdom, 5 hours ago
Tragic i bet it happened so fast , Sorry for your loss
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