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Death toll in Washington State mudslide 25; expected to rise sharply

Officials say some of those killed by Washington mudslide may not be found.

By Frances Burns
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A Search and Rescue Helicopter flies over the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Highway 530 on March 26, 2014 near Darrington, about 12 miles west of Darrington, Washington on March 26, 2014. More than 200 search and rescue personnel continue to search for survivors or bodies amid worsening weather conditions. Some 25 bodies have been discovered with more than 90 missing from the tragic mudslide. UPI/Jim Bryant | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/c8ca919bb82f115cbc44653b90720d6e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A Search and Rescue Helicopter flies over the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Highway 530 on March 26, 2014 near Darrington, about 12 miles west of Darrington, Washington on March 26, 2014. More than 200 search and rescue personnel continue to search for survivors or bodies amid worsening weather conditions. Some 25 bodies have been discovered with more than 90 missing from the tragic mudslide. UPI/Jim Bryant | License Photo

Ninety people remain unaccounted for and at least 25 are dead in the deadly mudslide in a rural area of Washington State, local officials say.

At a meeting Wednesday night, John Pennington, Snohomish County head of emergency management, said 16 bodies had been identified and another nine located. He said those who are missing are almost certainly dead.

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Earlier Wednesday, authorities said 176 people had not been accounted for.

Officials say the bodies of some of those killed will probably never be found.

The mudslide Saturday on a hillside near the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River buried dozens of homes near the village of Oso. A square mile of mud, as much as 40 feet deep in spots, blocked a highway and dammed the river.

Steve Mason, a fire battalion chief for South Snohomish County, said rescuers are working carefully. Backhoes pick up small quantities of mud which is then searched with Mason coordinating an operation involving 200 emergency workers and volunteers and at least three dogs.

“People are under logs, mixed in. It’s a slow process,” Mason said.

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The disaster could be the deadliest in Washington history. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 57 and 96 people died in March 1910 when an avalanche hit two passenger trains in Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains, sending them down a ravine.

[Seattle Times]

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