Number of missing drops in Washington landslide as search continues

BY Kayla Ruble  March 30, 2014 at 1:12 PM EDT
 (Credit: David Ryder/Getty Images)

Rescue workers, including a search dog, enter the site of the last week’s landslide in Oso, Washington on Saturday. The missing person count has dropped dramatically and authorities have identified 18 bodies.(Credit: David Ryder/Getty Images)

The number of people thought to be missing from a deadly landslide in a Washington town has dropped from 90 to 30 late Saturday as authorities verified information and cross-referenced lists.

This development comes a week after the slide hit the mountainside community of Oso, located 55 miles northeast of Seattle. In the days since the slide occurred on the morning of March 22, rescue crews have searched through the debris field amid heavy rains and rough weather conditions.

While authorities have found more than two dozen bodies, the official death count remains at 18 as bodies were sent to be officially identified by the medical examiner.

During the week-long search, Snohomish County Department of Emergency program manager Jason Biermann said rescuers are often finding incomplete remains.

Officials expect the search could last a long time, with the possibility that in the end, some of those who were lost may never be found.

Dogs are proving helpful as workers sift through debris, but the animals are being kept to four-hour shifts to prevent hypothermia.

The landslide took place after weeks of heavy rain in the area, however residents had no warning until they heard mud and trees barreling down the mountain.

This incident has brought to light the fact that there is no national warning system in place to monitor slide activity. The federal government doesn’t track slides and there is no movement to create nationwide hazard maps.