The search for survivors from this weekend's massive mudslide in a small community in rural Washington state is now in its fourth day. Fourteen people have been confirmed dead, and another eight injured, but the more pressing issue is the number of missing. Officials have tallied a total of 176 reports of unaccounted for people since the disaster, a figure that has searchers fearing that they'll find more—possibly many more—bodies as they dig through the mud and debris that is 15 feet deep in some places. Here's the New York Times with more on the missing:
Emergency management officials cautioned on Monday that the new reports of people unaccounted for were likely to be revised downward, as some are duplicates or vague at best, with little more than a first name to go on. The officials also said search and rescue efforts were continuing where possible on the square-mile site, using dogs, ground-penetrating radar, aircraft and other tools.
But the sense of an expanding disaster — one touching more lives — was unavoidable as a better understanding of the slide’s grim dimensions emerged. Emergency officials said the new list included not just residents, but also home repair contractors, visitors and people who were perhaps driving on a state road when the slide released.
The good news is that 176 figure is all but certain to come down as officials double check and follow up on all the reports. "The 176, I believe very strongly is not a number we're going to see in fatalities," said Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington. "I believe it's going to drop dramatically." The bad: Anyone who was actually caught in the slide is likely dead. "Most of us in these communities do not believe we'll find anyone alive," Pennington said. "I'm a man of faith and I believe in miracles."