Washington mudslide official death toll still 17

OSO, Wash. (AP) — Officials at the scene of Saturday’s devastating mudslide in Washington state said the only authority that can confirm the number of dead as a result of the slide is the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

So far, the number dead is still officially 17, despite conflicting media reports.

Searchers walk into the scene of a deadly mudslide that covers the road, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Oso, Wash. Sixteen bodies have been recovered, but authorities believe at least 24 people were killed. And scores of others are still unaccounted for, although many of those names were believed to be duplicates or people who escaped safely. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)
Searchers walk into the scene of a deadly mudslide that covers the road, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Oso, Wash. Sixteen bodies have been recovered, but authorities believe at least 24 people were killed. And scores of others are still unaccounted for, although many of those names were believed to be duplicates or people who escaped safely. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)

In an official update Friday morning, Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots said the official death toll from the slide, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office, remains at 17 despite a long, grim recovery operation.

He said due to the sensitive nature of the recovery, and the small, tight-knit community of Oso, the official number of dead would only be released as it was confirmed by the medical examiner’s office.

There was speculation earlier the official number would spike — with 90 people still officially missing.

As victims are brought to the medical examiner’s office, information is not sent out until the victims have been identified.

Hots said he would be updated later today by the MEO and a press conference will be held at 6 p.m. with those new figures.

Recovery operation soldiers on

The recovery process continues almost a week after a deadly wall of mud rocked the town of Oso, near Arlington Saturday March 22, destroying at least 30 homes.

“Rain wind and weather working against us,” said Hots.

A first responder searches for any signs of life during the recovery efforts in Oso, Wash. March 28, 2014 (KOIN)
A first responder searches for any signs of life during the recovery efforts in Oso, Wash. March 28, 2014 (KOIN)

“We’ve got a hard day ahead of us.”

New geologists are on scene to assess the risk of further landslides, as increased rain continue to pose a danger for recovery efforts. Grief counsellors have also been brought into the town to help both families of victims and rescuers process what they have been through.

“Fatigue of our first responders is a huge concern,” said Hots.

Plea for donations

Now, officials are calling for donations big and small to help victims pay for funerals, and search efforts. Hots said the people of Oso do not need anymore clothing or blankets, they just need money.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee asked for more federal emergency funds to help cover some of the estimated $4.5 million cost of emergency response and debris removal.

 

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