3rd UPDATE — Death toll in Oso mudslide rises to 21; overworked search dogs take break from recovery work
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The Associated Press
A member of the congregation at Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Darrington raises her hand as she sings during Sunday morning church services. Much of the music and speaking was devoted to reaction to the deadly mudslide that hit the nearby community of Oso.
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The Associated Press
A search dog and its handlers at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press
Taken before the mudslide, this photo provided by parents Amanda Skorjanc and Ty Suddarth shows little Duke Suddarth asleep near a dog. The 5-month-old baby rescued from the Oso landslide was listed Sunday in serious condition but improving at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
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The Associated Press
Rescue workers use chainsaws and other tools to dig through a tangle of trees and mud marked as having a possible victim of the Oso mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A searcher walks through the scene of the mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A basketball floats amid muck and debris left by the Oso mudslide along State Route 530 near Darrington.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Workers and volunteers observe a moment of silence outside of the Oso Fire Department at 10:37 a.m. Saturday, exactly one week after a fatal mudslide struck just east of the small community.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Searchers pause for a moment of silence at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Searchers pause for a moment of silence at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Rescue workers continue to search the muck and debris left by the Oso mudslide along State Route 530 near Darrington.
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The Associated Press
A customer rests her hands on a tee-shirt for sale at an Arlington sporting goods store, with proceeds to be directed to victims of the deadly landslide.
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Seattle Times/Mike Siegel via The Associated Press
Members of the Air Force National Guard including Major Tawny Dotson, left, and Master Sgt. Chris Martin are assisting with search and rescue efforts at the Oso mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A mangled vehicle sticks up amid debris pulled from the west site of the mudslide on Highway 530 near mile marker 37 on Friday.
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The Associated Press (Click on photo to enlarge)
Workers help clear and sort the remains of houses at the west site of the mudslide on Highway 530 near mile marker 37 on Friday.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A worker carries bags of personal belongings collected from debris at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Workers use heavy equipment to clear trees and other debris Thursday as the search continued for victims of the massive mudslide near Oso.
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The Associated Press (Click on photo to enlarge)
Four search and rescue workers wade through water covering State Highway 530 on Thursday.
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The Associated Press
Snohomish County Fire District 1 battalion chief Steve Mason speaks with the news media on Friday near the site of the deadly mudslide.
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Seattle Times/Marcus Yam via The Asociated Press
Firefighters help unload publicly donated equipment to aid the search and rescue operations in the aftermath of the massive mudslide.
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The New York Times (Click on graphic to enlarge)
This graphic uses a 2012 aerial photo to outline Saturday's mudslide and the houses it ruined. State Highway 530 and the Stillaguamish River also are shown. This graphic also can be accessed at www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/23/us/washington-mudslide.html
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A military helicopter flies Thursday, March 27, 2014, over mud and debris from the massive mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A cross at the Oso Community Chapel is decorated with flowers in dedication to mudslide victims.
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The Associated Press
Searchers work on a massive pile of debris on Thursday.
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The Associated Press
A searcher walks through the area hit by the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (To enlarge, click on photo)
Searchers on Thursday work at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Seattle Times/Marcus Yam via The Associated Press
Darrington volunteer firefighters (from left) Jeff McClelland, Jan McClelland and Eric Finzimer embrace Wednesday after saying a prayer. The town's volunteer firefighters have been on searches in the mudslide zone since Saturday.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A searcher tries to keep balance while walking through debris at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Searchers watch as a piece of heavy equipment slowly moves debris at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (Click on photo to enlarge)
Workers carrying hand tools walk into a debris area at the scene of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A flag, put up by volunteers helping search the area, stands in the ruins of a home.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
"We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find somebody alive in some pocket area," said Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots.
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The Associated Press
Rescue workers remove one of a number of bodies from the wreckage of homes destroyed by a mudslide near Oso.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Thick, oozing mud is cleared from States Highway 530 by workers using heavy equipment.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A search and rescue worker clears debris from a house on the western edge of the massive mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A volunteer arrives at the Oso Fire Department.
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The Associated Press
The massive mudslide that killed at least eight people and left dozens missing is shown in this aerial photo, taken Monday near Oso.
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The Seattle Times via The Associated Press (Click on photo to enlarge)
An aerial photo of the mudslide near the Snohomish County town of Oso.
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The Associated Press/The Herald, Genna Martin
Brian Anderson, left, and Coby Young on Sunday search through the wreckage of a home belonging to the Kuntz family. The entire Kuntz family was at a baseball game Saturday morning when the mudslide swept through the area. The family returned Sunday to search through what remained.
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The Associated Press/The Herald, Genna Martin
A woman holds family photos pulled from the rubble at the site of the mudslide.
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The Associated Press/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson
The orange X on a house destroyed in the mudslide indicates it has been searched by searchers.
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(Everett) Daily Herald via The Associated Press (Click on photo to enlarge)
An aerial photo of Saturday's mudslide damage in rural Snohomish County near Oso.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
The huge mudslide in rural Snohomish County near Oso on Saturday.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
The huge mudslide in rural Snohomish County near Oso on Saturday.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
The huge mudslide in rural Snohomish County near Oso on Saturday.
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The Seattle Times via The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Robin Youngblood survived the landslide that destroyed her house next to the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. She is holding the only item that survived the disaster, a painting of a Cherokee warrior that was knocked from the wall and muddied. "It saved us." she said.
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The Associated Press
A sign is placed to direct those in need to a Red Cross shelter at Post Middle School in Arlington.
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(Everett) Daily Herald via Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department to look for updates about the mudslide.
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(Everett) Daily Herald via Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department to look for updates about the mudslide.
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(Everett) Daily Herald via Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
A woman collapses as neighbors gather at the Oso Fire Department to look for updates about the mudslide.
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The Associated Press
A demolished house sits in the mud on State Highway 530 on Sunday, the day after the giant landslide occurred.
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The Associated Press/The Herald, Genna Martin
Steve Skaglund walks across the rubble on the east side of Saturday's fatal mudslide.
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The Seattle Times/Marcus Yam via The Associated Press
At Darrington High School, local residents reach out and pray with one another at a community prayer vigil for the victims and survivors of the massive mudslide.
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The Associated Press
Workers comb through debri at the site of the deadly mudslide.
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The Associated Press (click on photo to enlarge)
Workers at the mudslide site before stopping for a moment of silence on Saturday

By JONATHAN J. COOPER and LISA BAUMANN
The Associated Press

Baby rescued from Oso mudslide recovering
SEATTLE — The 5-month-old baby rescued from the Oso landslide is listed in serious condition and improving at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The hospital said Sunday that Duke Suddarth remains in the intensive care unit.

His mother, 25-year-old Amanda Skorjanc, is in satisfactory condition at the hospital.

Three men rescued from the March 22 slide also are at the hospital.

A 37-year-old is in serious condition in intensive care. An 81-year-old in serious condition in intensive care. And a 58-year-old is in satisfactory condition.

The family of the mother and baby released a statement through the hospital:

"We are so grateful to all the responders who jeopardized their safety in order to pull Duke and Amanda out of the debris. Words alone cannot tell you how thankful we are.

"Our hearts and support continue to go out to everyone who has been affected by this tragedy."
EDITOR'S NOTE — A list with photos of known victims of the mile-wide mudslide near Oso — persons confirmed missing or dead by authorities or families — can be accessed at http://seattletimes.com/flatpages/local/victimsoftheosomudslide.html

Related story: "Snohomish County mudslide — how to donate to victims, how to report someone missing": http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140328/NEWS/303289959

DARRINGTON — Many of the dogs essential in the search for victims of the deadly mudslide that buried dozens of home in the mountainside community of Oso will take a two-day break, rescue crews said Sunday, as the official death toll rose to 21 and more bodies were recovered.

The dogs can lose their sensing ability if overworked in the cold and rain.

"The conditions on the slide field are difficult, so this is just a time to take care of the dogs," said Kris Rietmann, a spokeswoman for the team working on the eastern portion of the slide, which hit March 22 about 55 miles northeast of Seattle and is one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

Dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that arrived more recently will continue working.

On Sunday evening, the number of people who have been confirmed dead increased from 18 to 21, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

Fifteen of the victims have been identified by the Snohomish County medical examiner, and six have yet to be identified, Biermann said.

Another four bodies were found in the debris field on Sunday, but they won't be added to the official count until the medical examiner receives the bodies.

Biermann said 30 people remain missing.

Authorities have said the task of finding and identifying victims from the debris field has been extremely challenging, and not all may ultimately be recovered.

Crews have completed a makeshift road that will link one side of the debris field to the other, significantly aiding the recovery operation.

They have also been working to clear mud and debris from the highway, leaving piles of gooey muck, splintered wood and housing insulation on the sides of the road.

Searchers have had to contend with treacherous conditions, including septic tanks, gasoline and propane containers. When rescuers and dogs leave the site, they are hosed off by hazardous materials crews.

The slide dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool up on the east side. The river cut a new channel through the mud, but the rain has raised the water level nearly a foot, Rietmann said.

In at least one place, the water level got so high that it covered areas that have already been searched, said Tim Pierce, leader of Washington Task Force 1, a search-and-rescue team.

"At this point, there's no point in searching (that area) again until the water drops back down," he said.

Rescuers should get some relief soon. Conditions were improving Sunday, and mainly dry weather is forecast Monday through Wednesday in western Washington.

The size of the debris field is also smaller than initially thought, officials said Sunday. After review and analysis, geologists have determined it is about 300 acres — just under half the size of an earlier projection of 1 square mile.

Away from the whirring chain saws and roaring bulldozers, many residents of nearby Darrington sought comfort in church services.

"I can only compare it to a hot, hearty meal after a very cold day," said Slava Botamanenko, who works at the hospital in Arlington. He said he spent two nights there to be sure he was available for work after the mudslide blocked the road.

All week, a steady stream of people has stopped in to pray at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God on the edge of town, said Lee Hagen, the senior pastor.

"At a time like this, everybody knows they've got to have God's help," he said.

Country singer Susie McEntire, sister of Reba, performed for the congregation Sunday, crooning: "You'll get through this and you'll break new ground."

At the St. John Mary Vianney Catholic church a few blocks away, Father Tim Sauer said: "Bless our communities, bless our people, bless our valley."

The Rev. Owen Couch, a chaplain for the fire district in Darrington, said he's worried about the first responders.

"My concern is when this slows down and they're not going full tilt, and they have time to kind of reflect on what they've seen and what they've done," he said. "That's when the critical incident stress starts to kick in."

Steve Huot, lead chaplain for the Arlington Fire Department, said he is seeing people in various states. Some are in shock, while others have begun to grasp the reality of the disaster. Many are exhausted.

"It's more about listening right now. You need to encourage them and maybe change their focus to staying busy for the group, for the team," he said.

"The conditions on the slide field are difficult, so this is just a time to take care of the dogs," said Kris Rietmann, a spokeswoman for the team working on the eastern portion of the slide, which hit March 22 about 55 miles northeast of Seattle and is one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

Dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that arrived more recently will continue working, said Heidi Amrine, another spokeswoman for the operation.

Late Saturday, authorities revised the number of people believed to be missing from 90 to 30, while the official death toll increased by one, to 18, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

Officials have said they had expected the number of missing to change as they worked to find people safe and cross-referenced a list that likely included partial information and duplicate reports.

Authorities have said they recovered more than two dozen bodies, but they won't be added to the official tally until a formal identification is made. Underscoring the difficulty of that task, Biermann said crews are not always discovering complete remains.

Crews have completed a makeshift road that will link one side of the debris field to the other, significantly aiding the recovery operation.

They have also been working to clear mud and debris from the highway, leaving piles of gooey muck, splintered wood and housing insulation on the sides of the road.

Searchers have had to contend with treacherous conditions, including septic tanks, gasoline and propane containers. When rescuers and dogs leave the site, they are hosed off by hazardous materials crews.

The slide dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool up on the east side. The river cut a new channel through the mud, but the rain has raised the water level nearly a foot, Rietmann said.

In at least one place, the water level got so high that it covered areas that have already been searched, said Tim Pierce, leader of Washington Task Force 1, a search-and-rescue team.

"At this point, there's no point in searching (that area) again until the water drops back down," he said.

Rescuers should get some relief soon. Conditions were improving Sunday, and mainly dry weather is forecast Monday through Wednesday in western Washington.

The size of the debris field is also smaller than initially thought, officials said Sunday. After review and analysis, geologists have determined it is about 300 acres — just under half the size of an earlier projection of one square mile.

Away from the whirring chain saws and roaring bulldozers, many residents of nearby Darrington sought comfort in church services before another week of recovery efforts.

"I can only compare it to a hot, hearty meal after a very cold day," said Slava Botamanenko, who works at the hospital in Arlington. He said he spent two nights there to be sure he was available for work after the mudslide blocked a road.



All week, a steady stream of people has stopped in to pray at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God on the edge of town, said Lee Hagen, the senior pastor.

"At a time like this, everybody knows they've got to have God's help," he said.

Steve Huot, lead chaplain for the Arlington Fire Department, said he is seeing people in various states. Some are in shock, while others have begun to grasp the reality of the disaster. Many are exhausted.

"It's more about listening right now. You need to encourage them and maybe change their focus to staying busy for the group, for the team," he said. "You might need to drive them into something productive and make sure that they feel a sense of accomplishment and contribution."

Last modified: March 30. 2014 8:03PM
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