Oso Mudslide: Identifying Victims Difficult TaskBy: Toni Matthews-El - March 30, 2014
The Washington mudslide which occurred near Oso last weekend has taken a devastating toll on the community.
Dozens of homes were damaged and at present, the number of confirmed dead stands at 18.
The somewhat good news in this grim situation is that the number of dead and missing has been revised downward significantly within the past week. At one time it was feared that as many as 220 people were missing in the mudslide, with dozens of potential fatalities.
The number of missing has since been adjusted to 30 individuals. It’s expected that the number of dead could climb as high as 27.
The process of recovery has been frustratingly tedious.
Jason Biermann of the Snohomish Department of Emergency Management said that recovery crews are often “making partial recoveries.” This causes a significant delay in the time needed to properly identify the remains.
Snohomish County executive director Gary Haakenson said to reporters on Friday that the act of recovery is a “very slow process”. Haakenson blamed conditions at the recovery site. Heavy rains had turned some areas into something akin to “quicksand”.
— NBC News Pictures (@NBCNewsPictures) March 28, 2014
The weather is making it hard to find victims and the remains that are recovered make it hard to identify victims.
This is no doubt frustrating the community and family members still waiting for news about their loved ones. Officials have already stated that it’s likely some bodies may never be recovered, leaving some to wonder if missing relatives will ever be identified.
Authorities have also stated that they do not expect that they will find survivors at this stage, only deceased victims. That expectation peaked as no survivors were recovered beyond the first day of the mudslide.
Thus far only a handful of victims have been positively identified. This includes 45-year-old Christina Jefferds, 55-year-old Stephen Neal, 69-year-old Linda McPherson, and 66-year-old William Welsh. Kaylee Spillers is the youngest victim to have been identified thus far. She was only 5 years of age.
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