Mudslide Death Toll Reaches New High
Stands at 27; 19 victims have been identified
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 1, 2014 11:12 AM CDT
A searcher walks through a channel of water as a flag flies in the debris field Monday, March 31, 2014, at the site of the massive mudslide that hit the community of Oso, Wash. on March 22, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(Newser) – The official death toll from Washington's mudslide has increased to 27, with the Snohomish County medical examiner's office saying 19 victims have been positively identified. That's up from 24 dead with 18 identified yesterday. The latest name to the list is 58-year-old Brandy L. Ward of Arlington. Like the rest of the victims, she was killed by blunt force injuries in the March 22 slide. Workers are trying to improve the flow of the Stillaguamish River through the landslide at Oso to reduce flooding as they continue the grim task of recovering bodies.

And that's not the only challenge in front of them. Reuters reports that the hundreds of workers wading through armpit-deep mud face exposure to a bath of toxins. That's because everything from sewage to household solvents to propane is encased below the surface. Workers are using duct tape to close off the gap between their pants and boots and visit a decontamination station before exiting for the day, in a move designed to both protect the workers and keep the toxic contaminants from being carted elsewhere.