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Rescuers find more bodies in Washington state mudslide rubble

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 - 10:03am IST | Place: Arlington | Agency: Reuters

Rescue workers found additional bodies on Tuesday in the rubble left by a Washington state landslide that officials previously confirmed had killed at least 14 people and left scores more missing.

"Additional slide victims have been found at the landslide site off of (State Route) 530 earlier today," Snohomish County spokeswoman Shari Ireton said in a statement. "The number of victims has not yet been confirmed."

As many as 176 people were listed as missing three days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed, 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.

Even as hopes faded of plucking anyone alive from cement-like mud blanketing the landscape three days after the disaster, operators of excavators with clawed buckets dug through the debris, and chaplains stood by to comfort searchers and families of the missing.

The disaster ranks as one of the deadliest U.S. landslides since 10 people died when falling earth engulfed homes in the coastal community of La Conchita, California, in 2005.

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.

With no change overnight in the number of people missing, local fire chief Travis Hots had said he expected the fatality count to rise throughout the day in the slide area, about 55 miles (90 km) northeast of Seattle.

A total of 156 workers were taking part in search and recovery efforts on Tuesday and 50 National Guard members were expected to join later in the day.

Quicksand-like conditions had 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.

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