Mudslide: 24 Dead, Rescuers Mired in Quicksand and Toxic Waste
The likely death toll has risen to 24 from the devastating mudslide that smothered the town of Oso, Washington about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. On Tuesday, a crew comprised of 200 responders were using everything from heavy equipment and search dogs to their bare hands, sifting through the wreckage in rainy, wet conditions, hoping to find additional survivors.
Unfortunately, officials have described the search as "grim" as crews wade through mud and quicksand-like conditions. Washington State Department of Transportation employed heavy earth moving equipment to move trees, boulders, and wreckage. The quicksand is so dense and cloying that it can take as much as five minutes to walk 40 feet.
According to Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots, "We didn't locate anybody alive." He added, however, "We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area." The Fire Chief had expressed his condolences earlier in the day to those who had been affected by the slide, offering his “deepest sympathies and condolences to the families.”
Responders faced treacherous conditions as they combed through the mud and debris that was rendered by the catastrophe. Moreover, the searchers are combating toxic pools of gasoline and septic discharge. On Saturday when the slide came down, Ed Hrivnak, who was co-piloting an aircraft over the destruction, said a lot of the houses didn’t just get buried in mud and smothered but that the "the houses exploded." Cars and trucks were crushed into little pieces, rendering the tires as the only visible signs of their previous existence.
You can follow Robert on twitter @robertwildewrites.