Death Toll From Mudslide ‘Will Only Increase’
By Mark Memmott, with Additional Reporting From The Associated Press
Officials expect to release more information late Friday about the death toll from last week's massive mudslide in Oso, Wash., and they're warning that the news is going to be grim.
"We understand there has been confusion over the reported number of fatalities," Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots said Thursday. "The sadness here is that we know this number will only increase."
As the day began, the official death toll was 17, and authorities were saying that another nine bodies had been located. But 90 names remained on a list of those reported to be missing.
The difficult search for victims continues. The Seattle Times write that on Thursday, crews "sifted through new parts of mudslide wreckage after receding water levels on the east side of the slide area uncovered debris that previously had been inaccessible. Floodwaters from the slide-blocked North Fork of the Stillaguamish River had previously made it difficult for crews to spot the pancaked homes and crushed cars they found Thursday."
One of the few survivors of the mudslide says the roar of the hillside collapsing was so loud, she thought an airplane had crashed.
But when Robin Youngblood looked out the window of her mobile home, she saw a wall of mud racing toward her across a river valley.
She says, "All I could say was `Oh my God' and then it hit us.'' Youngblood says the mud hit "like a wave,'' and pushed up the mobile home, tearing off the roof. She says, "When we stopped moving, we were full of mud everywhere.''
The wall of mud and water engulfed her and a student of her church. They found themselves clinging to the unattached roof, before some additional water came in. They were covered in freezing mud as they waited for help. She says, "We cleaned everything from our noses and mouth so we could breathe.''
A helicopter arrived after about an hour, and crews were able to remove them from the mud. Youngblood has developed a cough from hypothermia, but she's otherwise OK. Her student suffered some deep bruises.
Youngblood is hoping some family heirlooms survived. She's waiting to find out. As for the destroyed community, she says, "I don't think anybody is going to be able to go back to that valley for years and years.''