OSO, Wash. — Heavy rain and strong winds played havoc Friday with rescue teams looking for more bodies in a massive mudslide that has killed at least 26 people. Officials say 90 people are still missing or unaccounted for.
Although at least 26 bodies have been found since the mudslide inundated the area Saturday, the official list of 17 from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office includes only those that have been identified.
Chief Travis Hots of Snohomish County Fire District 21 told reporters that he would release a revised death toll at a news conference at 6 p.m. local time (10 p.m. ET) Friday.
Hots says the poor weather is making it difficult for the 200 weary search teams combing through debris in a square-mile area swamped by mud following the collapse of a 600-foot hill.
“The rain and the wind and the weather is basically working against us,” he said, noting that winds at the site would reach 20 mph.
Hots said a second team of geologists was brought in to make sure there was no danger of an additional slide that could endanger the search teams.
Because of the possibility, however remote, of finding more survivors, the forensic digging team — sometimes working in waist-deep mud — must inspect each demolished home very carefully as they slowly bore into piles of wood and metal.
“The folks who are out there can’t keep doing this forever,” said Hots. “They’re getting tired and need a break.”
On Thursday night, the body of 4-month-old girl, Sanoah Violet Huestis, was found not far from where the body of her grandmother, Christina Jefferds, was discovered on Sunday.
Sanoah’s mother, Natasha Huestis, who was in nearby Arlington when disaster struck, confirmed that her child’s body was found.
Her daughter’s name means “mist in the mountains” in Hawaiian, Huestis told KING-TV earlier this week. “And you know, she’s in the mountains right now,” she said.
The family had waited to bury Jefferds until they could lay Sanoah to rest beside her.
On Wednesday, Dayn Brunner found the body of his sister, Summer Raffo, 36, after searching for three days.
“I got to hold her for my mom, and I got to say the words that my mom wanted to say to her,” Brunner said, choking back tears.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that the disaster could bring the largest ever mass loss of Washingtonians.
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens killed 57 people and a 1910 avalanche near Stevens Pass swept away two trains and killed 96.
Heather Graf also reports for KING-TV, Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. Contributing: Associated Press