In the latest reports, CNN has confirmed that the Washington mudslide death toll has risen to a total of 16.
[CNN Excerpt as of 9:33pm]
” Brenda Neal was still at the firehouse at midnight, watching as rescuers caked with mud returned from the search for survivors of a massive landslide in rural Washington state.
But they had no answers for her about her missing husband, Steven.
There was despair on their faces, she said.
Rescuers on Tuesday continued to battle debris and mud — with the consistency of quicksand in some places — in the search for survivors, but hopes dimmed as news broke that more bodies were found. No one has been rescued since the slide Saturday.
Authorities did not immediately release details nor did they say by how much the recoveries increased the current death toll of 14.
At least 176 people are unaccounted for. Officials have stressed those unaccounted for are not necessarily all victims of the disaster. They say they believe many names are duplicated.
Steven Neal’s family holds out hope, despite discouraging signs.
Neal is a plumber who was on a service call in the area where the landslide hit.
“None of us feel like he’s gone,” Brenda Neal said.
Her daughter, Sara, agreed: “I think if anyone had a chance to getting through, it would be him.”
The waiting came to end Tuesday for the family of U.S. Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge, 49, whose body and that of his dog were found by his brothers, his sister-in-law, Jackie Leighton, told CNN. Still missing is Regelbrugge’s wife, she said.
On Monday, search efforts yielded a grim result — six bodies.
“I’m very disappointed to tell you that we didn’t find any sign of any survivors, and we found no survivors today,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots told reporters Monday night.
But searchers still are going through the area with the hopes of making rescues, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said Tuesday morning.
“I believe in miracles, and I believe people can survive these events. They’ve done it before,” and they can do it again, he told reporters.
The landslide covered about a square mile and was caused by groundwater saturation tied to heavy rain in the area over the past month. It affected Oso, with a population of about 180, and Darrington, a town of about 1,350.
Authorities have been warning the search area remains unstable
A volunteer rescue worker was injured Tuesday while working in an area where the landslide struck, according to a statement released by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The rescue worker was hit in the head by debris kicked up “in helicopter wash,” it said.
President Barack Obama, in the Netherlands on Tuesday, asked that “all Americans to send their thoughts and prayers to Washington state and the community of Oso.”
Obama said he had spoken with Gov. Jay Inslee and signed an emergency declaration.
Early hopeful signs, such as the rescue of a 4-year-old boy on the day of the landslide, have faded for some.”
Prayers go out to Washington and to the families of those who have been affected by this tragic lost. We’ll continue to keep everyone in our prayers. Moreover, we hope the remaining missing persons will be found alive.