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Washington mudslide: 90 residents remain missing on fifth day of search

Unofficial death toll reaches 24 on Wednesday night

Authorities have confirmed at least 90 people remain missing from a rural Washington community following a devastating mudslide, with the status of another 35 remaining “unknown”.

The landslide sent a 177ft wall of mud crashing into dozens of homes in Oso on Saturday, with one resident describing the moment the slide struck as “like the end of the world”.

Hope of finding survivors is fading as the search enters its fifth day, with Oso Governor Jay Inslee conceding he expects the death toll to rise significantly.

Officially, the number of dead remains at 16 after two more bodies were recovered on Tuesday, but authorities said eight more had been located which they have been so far been unable to retrieve.

"It's been very sad that we have not been able to find anyone living now for probably 36 or 48 hours," he told CNN. "The most discouraging thing is we were hopeful that we would find folks who might be protected by a car or a structure, but the force of this landslide just defies imagination."

Authorities believe the victims could also include people from outside the community, such as construction workers or passing motorists, who were there at the time of the mudslide on Saturday morning.

Search crews using dogs, bulldozers and their bare hands have been slogging through the mess of broken wood and mud, but authorities have acknowledged they might have to leave some victims buried.

Video footage showed the dramatic moment a four-year-old boy was pulled from the debris, hours after the disaster struck.

On Wednesday, aerial before and after pictures showed the true extent of the catastrophe as the town lay buried in debris and mud.

The debris field is about a square mile and 30 to 40 feet deep in places, with a surface that includes quicksand-like muck, rain-slickened mud and ice. The terrain is difficult to navigate on foot and makes it treacherous or impossible to bring in heavy equipment.

Read more: Washington mudslide: Scores missing after ‘end of the world’ disaster