ARLINGTON, Wash. — Fearing more moving earth at the site of Saturday's deadly mudslide, search-and-rescue workers were pulled back Monday afternoon from searching for the dead and missing, officials said.
"There are concerns about additional slides in the same area affected Saturday," Snohomish County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Shari Ireton told reporters. "Ground crews have pulled back, and geologists are on the ground."
But there were still more than 100 responders in the field Monday afternoon, Ireton said, using search dogs, hovercraft, air support and sonar devices to look for survivors and victims in the square mile of deep debris about an hour north of Seattle.
Confusion continued over just how many people were missing in the disaster along the Stillaguamish River. Officials said early Monday that 108 were on an official list of the missing.
But they also cautioned that the number was still in flux after the slide just east of Oso, which wiped out dozens of rural homes with a square mile of mud and debris.
"This number is going to decline dramatically.... Some [reports of the missing] are as detailed as 'John with brown hair and blue eyes who lived in a particular neighborhood.' Others are just 'Frank, I met him once,' " said John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.
He added, "It’s not necessarily 108 injuries; it's not necessarily 108 fatalities."
The death toll rose to eight late Sunday, with no more bodies found overnight as rescuers brought in powerful lights to help crews pick through the wreckage and the slurry.
A 6-month-old boy and an 81-year-old man, both in critical condition, were among the seven survivors who remained hospitalized Monday. They, along with three others, were hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center, according to a statement from the hospital.
A Cascade Valley Hospital spokeswoman told The Times that it was caring for one patient in stable condition, and an official at Skagit Valley Hospital said one patient was in satisfactory condition.
On Monday, a clearer picture emerged of the area ruined by the mudslide. Pennington said 49 lots with housing had been hit.
Of those lots, there was one cabin, 13 manufactured homes (including recreation vehicles) and 35 built homes, Pennington said. Twenty-five of the lots were occupied full time, 10 were occupied part time or were vacation homes, and officials had no information yet about the other 14.
Reed Miller, whose 47-year-old son, Joseph, is among the missing, plans to stay at the Red Cross shelter in Arlington until more information emerges.
His son's mobile home was one of those crushed by a wall of mud and trees. He believes his son was in the home on Steelhead Drive when the slide hit.
On Monday morning, Miller pulled a piece of paper out of his worn wallet. He had written his son's cellphone number on it in a shaky hand.
Since the slide hit, the retired sawmill worker said, "I tried to dial it many times."
But no one has answered.
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