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Mudslide death toll expected to rise substantially

OSO, Wash. (WKRC) -- Officials searching for mudslide victims in Oso, Washington say the death toll is about to rise substantially.

As of this morning, 26 people are known to have died, 90 others are missing. 
"Oso Strong" signs are being posted around Oso, Washington, the town wiped out by a mudslide last weekend.

The search for victims is now in its seventh day, and volunteers like Pete Stewart are trying to stay  hopeful. "I can't do much. I don't have equipment. I don't have any first aid training, but someone needs to be out there. I need to experience this because this is, at this point, a  defining moment in our community, and I need to be there."

Stewart's seven children have classmates who are among the missing. "My six-year-old, all she knew was that her friend wasn't in school Monday, wasn't in school Tuesday, not in school today. And they had like a memorial in their class for that girl, and she's never coming back, and now she understands that.

In parts of the search area the mud is waist-deep. Search crews built paths out of donated plywood so they can walk around the swampy disaster area.

Rick Sherrill has spent the week hauling tons of rock to help FEMA turn a muddy trail into an access route to the massive pile of debris. "Amazing how much material's out in the middle of that."

Seismic readings show there were actually two landslides. The first lasted two minutes. Tremors were felt by seismic equipment 170 miles away. Four minutes later, the second slide engulfed the river valley, wiping out everything in its path.

Emergency officials have stopped conducting door-to-door searches and calling relatives trying to locate missing people who haven't checked in yet.

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