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San Francisco - Emergency officials on Monday dramatically raised the number of missing persons in the aftermath of Saturday's deadly mudslide in Washington state, saying that 108 people were unaccounted for.
The new count was given by Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington at a televised press briefing Monday morning.
It came in addition to the eight people confirmed dead, and the 12 injured in the catastrophe.
“We have 108 individual names, or likeness,” said Pennington, who added that he expected the number to come down rather than increase as some of the people on the list came forward.
The news conference coincided with the resumption of rescue efforts which saw hundreds of rescuers scour through the tide of mud which swept away dozens of houses Saturday, in the town of Oso some 100 kilometres north east of Seattle.
Rescuers did report hearing calls from the wreckage on Saturday but could not reach them as the mud was still fluid and caused rescuers to sink.
There were no signs of survivors in the Sunday search and Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said “the situation is very grim.” “We are still holding out hope we are going to find people alive. We are still in a rescue mode,” Hots said.
The mudslide occurred on Saturday when the rain-soaked side of a mountain in Snohomish County suddenly broke free and slammed into the homes, highway and a river below it. Pennington said the mudslide was over 1.5 kilometres wide and covered an area that included 49 structures.