Oso, Washington: Death toll from mudslide climbs to 14 and up to 176 are reported missing

Relatives of those still missing have used chainsaws and their bare hands to pick through the wreckage in efforts to find their loved ones

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The Independent US

The death toll from a mudslide in a rural Washington community climbed to 14 as six more bodies were found amid the wreckage from Saturday's disaster, authorities have confirmed.

Family members and neighbours have used chainsaws and their bare hands to pick through the devastation in search of their loved ones. At least 30 homes were destroyed and over half of the town of Oso remains missing.

The list of missing people reached 176 but emergency management director John Pennington stressed many of these names are likely to be duplicates.

"The 176, I believe very strongly is not a number we're going to see in fatalities. I believe it's going to drop dramatically," he said, but warned they were not expecting to find any more survivors.

President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in Washington State and instructed federal authorities to supplement state and local relief efforts in the aftermath of the mudslide and flooding, the White House said.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the mudslide “basically cut a mountain in two” and dropped it on the town below, leaving nothing in the path of the slide standing.

Rescuers using dogs, earth-moving equipment and aircraft searched on Monday after treacherous quicksand-like conditions forced rescue workers to suspend their efforts at dusk on Sunday. Some workers, mired in mud up to their armpits, had to be dragged to safety.

No one was pulled out alive on Monday from the disaster scene, Mr Hots said.

Workers had hoped to reach more survivors on Sunday after cries for help were heard the night before, but with the mud “like quicksand” and 15 feet (4.5m) deep in places, conditions were too dangerous to continue.

Several dozen homes were believed to have sustained some damage from the slide, John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, told reporters at a command post in the nearby town of Arlington.

One retired lumber mill worker, Reed Miller, told Seattle television station KOMO-TV that his riverfront house was demolished by the slide, and that his 47-year-old son, with whom he shared the home, was probably swept away with it.

"Well, he was at home. As far as I know he's gone," said Miller, who was at a grocery store in town at the time. "There's no official (word) that he's been found yet, but he could be buried. I just don't know."

Additional reporting by agencies