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Washington Mudslide: Fewer Missing As Death Toll Stays Put, For Now

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Weary searchers resumed their dangerous work Wednesday near Oso, Wash., where it's thought at least 25 people — and possibly many more — died when a massive mudslide buried dozens of homes and businesses on Saturday.

Headlines and news outlets' updates helped tell the story as the day began:

-- "Heartbreaking search intensifies in mudslide zone." (The Seattle Times)

-- "Over 200 searchers will resume the search at daylight." (KING5-TV)

-- "The number of people believed to be missing in the mudslide remains 'fluid,' according to officials. They have been working off a list with nearly 200 reports of people who are unaccounted for, but search operation crews said they are sure many of those names are duplicates." (Seattle's KUOW)

-- "The debris area covers an entire square mile and recent rain is making the task even more difficult." (KUOW's Sara Lerner on the NPR Newscast)

-- "County's own 2010 report called slide area dangerous." (The Seattle Times)

We'll keep an eye on developments and update as more news comes in.

Update at 9:28 p.m. ET. Significantly Fewer On List Of Missing:

Crews found another body late Wednesday. At least 25 bodies have been discovered but not all have been recovered.

The number of victims confirmed dead remains the same as Tuesday at 16. There are fewer people considered missing or unaccounted for, however, according to Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington.

Pennington said 90 people are now considered missing or unaccounted for and that 35 people's status is "unknown." He said 140 people who had previously been unaccounted for have now been located.

Authorities explained that fatalities are not officially announced until the bodies are located, moved and confirmed by the medical examiner. With that in mind, there will be an update on the numbers in the morning.

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Still 176 Names On Missing List, But Number Is Expected To Drop; No New Figures On Fatalities:

"Nothing has changed overnight," Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington told reporters this morning when asked about the figures on deaths and missing individuals. Sixteen people are confirmed to have died and eight other bodies have been "located" but not yet recovered, he said.

There are still 176 names on the list of those who have been reported missing, Pennington added, but he is "very confident that number will drop" as duplicates are eliminated. Pennington said he'll have more data this afternoon.

Pennington also said that while a federal state of emergency declaration hasn't yet been issued, there is "direct federal assistance" coming to the county.

KING-TV has video of the news conference held by Pennington and other officials.

Update at 1 p.m. ET. Names Of The Victims And Some Of The Missing:

The Seattle Times is posting names of those who are known to have died and those who are confirmed to be missing.

Our colleagues at KUOW spoke with a woman who believes she may have been the last person to safely drive through State Highway 530 before the mud swept across the road. Mathalie Meracle says she feels "very humbled and very grateful that I have my life and I feel so, so very sorry for all the people who were in there."

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET. Searchers Use Bulldozers And Bare Hands:

As The Associated Press says in its latest report, rescuers are using "small bulldozers and their bare hands" to work their way through the sludge and debris.

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Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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