The death toll from a devastating U.S. mudslide is already 25, but a rescue leader says the number of victims is likely to soon increase substantially.
A fire chief in the western state of Washington, Travis Hots, said Thursday that he expects the list of victims to lengthen considerably within the next two days as a medical examiner works to identify bodies already found in the mass of mud, trees and debris.
Authorities say that 90 people are unaccounted for and some may never be found. Saturday's sudden landslide cascaded through the rural enclave of Oso, north of the city of Seattle.
More than 200 rescue workers have been sifting through the quicksand-like mud littered with the remnants of 49 houses, twisted cars and the personal belongings of people who lived there.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who represents the area, visited the site Wednesday and described the devastation.
"This disaster is so enormous, I sometimes think that even pictures don't always do it justice," she said. "The number of families that have been impacted, the number of people that they've lost, the number of people who are still missing. It's truly, truly heartbreaking."
Crews are using heavy equipment, high-tech cameras, search dogs and their bare hands to search and dig through the rubble in the search for possible survivors and victims. No one has been found alive since Saturday.
Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.
Brenda Moe looks on after placing a cross with a yellow ribbon for victims of the Oso, Washington mudslide on her front lawn in Darrington, Washington, March 27, 2014.
A searcher walks through a massive pile of debris at the scene of a deadly mudslide in Oso, Washington, March 27, 2014.
An excavator is used as search work continues in the mud and debris from a massive mudslide that struck Oso near Darrington, Washington, March 27, 2014.
Robin Youngblood smiles after embracing Snohomish County helicopter crew chief Randy Fay, who helped rescue her after a deadly mudslide in Washington, March 26, 2014.
Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Crisp, liaison officer for the Washington National Guard, coordinates the arrival of a search team at the site of the mudslide in Oso, Washington, March 26, 2014.
Community members unpack a truckload of donated goods from The Rock Church, Darrington, Washington, March 26, 2014.
Jammi Parris, a waitress at the Blue Bird Cafe, paints a yellow ribbon on a window in downtown Arlington, Washington, March 25, 2014.
Teresa Welter cries as she holds a candle at a vigil for mudslide victims in Arlington, Washington, March 25, 2014.
A searcher uses a small boat to look through debris from a deadly mudslide in Oso, Washington, March 25, 2014.
An aerial view of the area affected by a landslide near State Route 530 is seen in this photo provided by Governor Jay Inslee's office, taken near Oso, Washington March 23, 2014.
A emergency vehicle is parked as a landslide and debris block Highway 530 near Oso, Washington, March 23, 2014.
Officials survey a large mudslide that pushed debris and at least one house onto Highway 530 near Oso, Washington, March 22, 2014.