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Mudslide Volunteers: 'We're Going In Whether You Let Us Or Not'

A worker uses a chain saw at the scene of the deadly mudslide near Oso, Wash.
Rick Wilking
A worker uses a chain saw at the scene of the deadly mudslide near Oso, Wash.

When emergency personnel got to the scene of Saturday's mudslide near Oso, Wash., they kept people away. Much of a mountain had torn off, roared across the Stillaguamish River, and destroyed about 50 homes and properties.

The mixture of mud and destroyed structures was, as NPR's Martin Kaste has said, like quicksand mixed with timber and was too dangerous to be in.

But as our colleagues at Seattle's KUOW report, many volunteers wouldn't take no for an answer for very long.

Bob DeYoung, a logger and former police officer, "will not directly admit he was out there before it was officially sanctioned," the NPR member station reports. "But he said he had to go because he had the equipment and the know-how, and he couldn't just sit there and watch TV."

"The local community is pretty tough," DeYoung tells KUOW. "And they stick together and we said, 'Well, we're going in whether you let us or not.' That was the deal. So once they saw that then they started taking volunteers."

KUOW's is one of several new reports about the anguish of those who have lost loved ones and neighbors, and the efforts underway to find those who were in the mudslide's path. As we've reported, as of Thursday morning 16 bodies had been recovered, nine other bodies had been located but not yet recovered, and 90 names were on a list of those still missing.

As The Associated Press writes, officials cautioned again on Thursday that they expect the death toll will go up considerably in coming days as the search efforts continue.

Related developments and headlines:

-- "Mudslide Recovery Brings Tears To Searchers." (AP)

-- "It's 'somber out there': Tough, rainy day ahead for searchers." (The Seattle Times)

-- "If we find one more alive, to me that's worth it," says local fire chief. (KING5-TV)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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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