Officials hope for lower death toll in Washington State mudslide

176 people are listed as missing

Published: March 26 2014 | 1:00 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:11 am in

Washington State officials were hoping on Wednesday to cut the numbers on a list of scores of people missing after a weekend landslide, one of the deadliest in recent U.S. history, that has killed an estimated 24 people.

As many as 176 people are listed as missing five days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed, tumbling over a river, across a road and into a rural residential area where it buried dozens of homes near the town of Oso.

Some of those may have been double-counted or slow to alert family and officials of their whereabouts, officials said.

Search and rescue operations tapered off overnight but ramped up to full strength again at first light on Wednesday, using dogs to pinpoint possible bodies, and electrical equipment including listening devices and cameras that can probe voids.

Forecasts in the area were for rain on Wednesday, and the previous day crews searching in drizzling rain for survivors had found more bodies. Officials have signaled the chances were low of finding people alive in the blanket of cement-like mud.

"We're not backing off. We're still going at this with all eight cylinders to get everyone out there who is unaccounted for," local fire chief Travis Hots said.

The slide ranks as one of the worst in the United States and has devastated residents of the roughly square-mile area where they had their homes on the banks of a river.

In 1969, 150 people were killed in landslides and floods in Nelson County, Virginia, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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