US mudslide searchers use dogs, hands
By Phuong Le and Manuel Valdes, AP
March 27, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
ARLINGTON, Washington--With search and cadaver dogs leading the way, rescuers using small bulldozers and their bare hands pushed through sludge strewn with splintered homes and twisted cars to find 10 more bodies in the debris of a Washington state mudslide, authorities said.
Despite the grim discoveries as the search entered its fifth day Wednesday — and the likelihood that more bodies will be found — officials were still hoping to find survivors.
“We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area,” said Travis Hots, a fire chief in Snohomish County.
Two bodies were recovered Tuesday, while eight were located in the debris field from Saturday's slide 55 miles (88 kilometers) northeast of Seattle, Hots said.
That brings the likely death toll to 24, though authorities are keeping the official toll at 16 until the eight other bodies are recovered.
With scores still missing, authorities are working off a list of 176 people unaccounted for, though some names were believed to be duplicates.
Hundreds of rescuers and heavy equipment operators slogged through the muck and rain, following the search dogs over the unstable surface.
“Going on the last three days the most effective tool has been dogs and just our bare hands and shovels uncovering people,” Hots said.
As the increasingly desperate search progressed, reports surfaced that warned of the potential for dangerous landslides in the community.