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Snohomish County Mudslide Death Toll at 8; 108 Reported Missing

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By Clyde Hughes   |   Monday, 24 Mar 2014 01:44 PM

Eight people are known dead and perhaps dozens still remained missing on Monday, two days after a mudslide demolished more than 30 homes at Oso in Snohomish County in Washington State.

The death toll could rise as the search continued through the wreckage along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, according to The Seattle Times.  The newspaper reported that more than 20 feet of mud from a rain-soaked hillside buried a mile long stretch of Highway 530 Saturday morning.

More than 100 missing-persons reports have been filed with various agencies in Washington state in the aftermath of a mudslide, Reuters reported.

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Although on Sunday night officials put the number of missing at 18 or more, on Monday morning various agencies had collected reports – some specific and others vague – of 108 people who remained unaccounted for after the disaster.

John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, said that number was likely to decline as survivors initially reported as missing eventually make contact with loved ones and local authorities, or as some reports turn out to overlap with others.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," Travis Hots, chief of Snohomish County Fire Districts 21 and 22, told reporters Sunday during a news conference,

More than 100 rescue workers joined in the search for missing people believed to be in the rubble, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman told the Journal on Monday that five survivors were being treated there. The spokeswoman said a 6-month-old child and an 81-year-old man were listed in critical condition, two men in serious condition and one woman in satisfactory condition.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the area "a square mile of total devastation" Sunday after he flew over the affected area, according to KIRO-TV. Inslee told families that the state government will do everything possible find the missing.

"There is a full scale, 100 percent aggressive rescue going on right now," Inslee told KIRO-TV.

Authorities said they were worried about downstream flooding because of water pooling behind the mudslide debris. The slide blocked the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing the backup.

Pete Selvig, a member of the Darrington emergency response team, confirmed one of the deaths as former Darrington librarian and school board member Linda McPherson, 69, according to the Seattle Times. Selvig said McPherson’s husband, Gary "Mac" McPherson, was injured in the slide.

"We thought it was a car accident," witness Sierra Sansaver told the Seattle Times about driving to Darrington to find the road was blocked by mud. "Then you realize there's a house in the middle of the road. We heard screaming from a house 100 yards from us. A whole bunch of men went in there and pulled out a six-month-old baby."

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