DARRINGTON, Wash.- Rescuers searching for 90 people still missing five days after a massive mudslide in Washington state braced the public on Thursday for an impending steep rise in the death toll even as they deflected grumbling about the adequacy of the early disaster response.
At least 25 people are known to have died when a rain-soaked hillside collapsed without warning on Saturday, unleashing a wall of mud that engulfed dozens of homes in a river valley near the rural town of Oso, 55 miles (89 km) northeast of Seattle.
Only the first 16 victims recovered and examined by coroners have been formally counted among the dead, though local fire district chief Travis Hots said that figure would soon climb sharply higher. Nine more bodies that have since been found have yet to be added to the official toll.
"In the next 24 to 48 hours, as the medical examiner's office catches up with the difficult work that they have to do, you're going to see these numbers increase substantially," he said.