Rescuers returned to the landslide zone north of Seattle Thursday to continue their search for survivors six days after a slide buried about one square mile. The death toll is up to 17.
Volunteers gathered in in Oso, Wash., at the "unreal" scene of the slide as they looked for any sign of life among the knee-deep debris.
"Anything that anyone would have in a neighborhood is now strewn out here," said Steve Mason, a Snohomish County fire battalion chief. "Some [houses] look like they've been put in a blender and dropped on the ground, so you have basically a big pile of debris."
Fire Chief Travis Hots said he expects the death toll to rise "very much" by Friday as 90 people remain unaccounted for. He added that at least seven bodies they've found won't be added to the count until medical examiners are able to identify them.
While no survivors have been found over the past six days of search, Host still thinks of his operation as a rescue.
“As far as I’m concerned we’re still in a rescue mode. I haven’t lost hope yet and there are a lot of people up there who haven’t lost hope yet,” he said.
Officials say groundwater saturation and heavy rains are likely to blame for the slide.