108 'reports of names' of missing in landslide

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

WVEC.com

Posted on March 24, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 25 at 6:07 AM

ARLINGTON, Wash.  -- Emergency officials announced Monday that they have received 108 reports of names of people missing or unaccounted for after a massive mudslide that hit rural Snohomish County Saturday, primarily affecting the communities of Oso and Darrington.

Among the possible missing are construction workers coming into the neighborhood and people just driving by. Snohomish County Emergency Management director John Pennington said the slide occurred on a Saturday morning, when more people were likely to be home.

Although there are 108 reports of names of people who are missing or unaccounted for, Pennington wanted it to be made clear that does not necessarily mean there are actually 108 people deceased or injured. He said those were just the names reported. Some of the reports are very specific while others are vague.

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Related: Landslide emergency information and how you can help

“In some cases, that list is very detailed. It’s ‘John, who has brown hair, blue eyes and lived in this particular neighborhood.’ In a lot of cases, it’s a name like Frank, ‘I met him once. I think he lived over there,’” said Pennington.

Call center to report missing

Pennington also said the county is trying to streamline the effort to find out who is missing. The county wants anyone who is reporting someone missing or unaccounted for to call the Department of Emergency Management call center at 425-388-5088. That number should be called regardless of whether that person has already been reported missing to another phone number, website or social media.

Those who are safe are also asked to call 425-388-5088.

The call center can only take information, said Pennington. It cannot answer questions.

Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said no more bodies were found overnight Sunday into Monday. He said the ground remained unstable.

"The situation is very grim," said Hots.

He stressed that authorities are still in rescue mode and are holding out hope. But he noted: "We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday."

More local and federal resources are being brought in to help, including personnel, aircraft, search dogs and technical rescue experts. The Washington State Department of Transportation is also bringing in heavy equipment to clear the mud.

Slide still moving

Search and rescuers were pulled away from the west side of the slide Monday morning due to concerns about the hillside moving at the 600-foot level. Snohomish County also urged people to stay away from the mudslide area.

Darrington Fire Chief Dennis Fenstermaker said the slide is separated into a six grid system with searchers assigned to each area.

“We are looking for live victims. We are not spending a whole lot of time, so it has to be quick and thorough, but we are trying to move through and make sure there is nobody in those areas,” said Fenstermaker.


  Graphic courtesy The Seattle Times

Pennington said there were 49 parcels of land in the slide area that had homes, RVs or a cabin in the slide area. Twenty-five of those were occupied full-time and ten were occupied part-time or vacation homes. Information on the others was not known Monday morning.

Resources coming to Darrington include a reader board that will send out an AM radio broadcast with updated information.

“We will use every federal resource available to help support Snohomish County, the city of Darrington, the community of Oso and the individual families who were affected by this,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington.

Cantwell said FEMA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have been called in to help with resources.

The 1-square-mile slide critically injured several people -- including an infant -- and destroyed about 30 homes. Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.

The North Fork of the Stillaguamish River continued to back up Monday morning. At least seven homes were flooded and more were expected to flood. Snohomish County said water was trickling through the slide and creating a new river channel

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Monday afternoon

Follow @snocounty and @SnoCoSheriff on Twitter for the latest updates on the situation.

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