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April 1, 2014

More mudslide victims found as state seeks new aid

DARRINGTON, Wash. — Estimated financial losses from the deadly Washington mudslide that has killed at least 24 people have 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.

The Snohomish County medical examiner’s office said Monday afternoon that it has received a total of 24 victims, and 18 of those have been positively identified. Previously, the official death toll was 21, with 15 victims identified.

The remains of three additional victims were found Monday, but they have not yet been included in the medical examiner’s official numbers, Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson told reporters at a Monday evening briefing.

The county sheriff’s office released a list Monday evening 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,” 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, members of the Seattle Seahawks football team and Seattle Sounders soccer team visited with community members Monday evening.

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