DARRINGTON, Wash. (CBS Seattle/AP) — The official death toll from Washington’s mudslide has increased to 28, with the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office saying 19 victims have been positively identified. That’s up from 27 dead with 19 identified on Tuesday.
Workers are trying to improve the flow of the Stillaguamish River through the landslide at Oso to reduce flooding as they continue the grim task of recovering bodies.
The latest names added to the victims list are 65-year-old Thom E. Satterlee, 60-year-old Lon E. Slauson and 23-year-old Adam Farnes. Like the rest, they died of blunt force injuries suffered in the March 22 slide northeast of Seattle.
Estimated financial losses from the mudslide has reached $10 million, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday in a letter asking the federal government for a major disaster declaration.
In seeking additional federal help following one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history, Inslee said about 30 families need assistance with housing, along with personal and household goods. The estimated losses include nearly $7 million in structures and more than $3 million in their contents, Inslee’s letter said.
Inslee told CBS News Sunday that he is hoping for some kind of miracle to emerge from the deadly mudslide.
“Look, we are hoping for a miracle. And more importantly, we are working for a miracle. And we’re doing everything humanly possible if that opportunity exists,” Inslee told “Face the Nation.” ”These searchers, both professionals and volunteer, are really performing Herculean tasks right now. They’re working beyond the point of exhaustion. And we intend to exhaust every possible avenue to look for that miracle.”
The county sheriff’s office released a list of 22 people believed missing following the March 22 slide that destroyed a rural mountainside community northeast of Seattle. That’s down from the 30 people officials previously considered missing.
“There’s been an exhaustive effort by the detectives to narrow the list down to one that they feel comfortable releasing,” Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson said.
“These are 22 people whose loved ones are grieving,” he said. “We want to do all we can to find them and put some closure in place for their families.”
He said there could be some overlap between the list of missing and the handful of victims who have not been positively identified by the medical examiner.
Steve Harris, a division supervisor for the search effort, said Monday that search teams have been learning more about the force of the slide, helping them better locate victims in a debris field that is 70 feet deep in places.
“There’s a tremendous amount of force and energy behind this,” Harris said of the slide.
Harris said search dogs are the primary tool for finding victims, and searchers are finding human remains four to six times per day. Sometimes crews only find partial remains, which makes the identification process harder.
Inslee’s request Monday also seeks federal help with funeral expenses, and mental health care programs for survivors, volunteers, community members and first responders.
He also is asking for access to disaster housing, disaster grants, disaster-related unemployment insurance and crisis counseling programs for those in Snohomish County and for the Stillaguamish, Sauk-Suiattle and Tulalip Indian tribes.
Meanwhile, a dozen members of the Seattle Seahawks football team and Seattle Sounders FC soccer team visited Monday with more than 300 children, parents and area residents at the Darrington Community Center.
Players said they signed autographs, tossed footballs and kicked soccer balls in an effort to bring some smiles to an area hit by tragedy.
“To be able to offer a little bit of a release or a distraction from what’s going on, I mean that’s all you can do,” Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith said.
Sounders forward Kenny Cooper said he played pickup soccer with the kids.
One child, 10-year-old Jacob Spelman, wore an autographed bright green hat commemorating the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory as he spoke to reporters after the visit.
“I just feel like they care and that they would like it if we felt better and they came to help us,” he said.
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