SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — After another victim was recovered, bringing the official death toll of last month’s deadly mudslide in Washington state to 37, a number of local emergency crews who provided aide recall seeing the devastation in person.
While several weeks worth of effort was put forth by local crews in trying to rescue or recover victims, the fact that seven people are still unaccounted for means workers do not consider the job done.
“There were huge rubble piles, there was obviously debris from zero up to sixty-five feet, and it’s going to take a tremendous effort still to go through and de-layer the whole thing, to try to find all the victims that are still in the pile,” Riverside Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Dave Bakas said.
Chief Bakas says that he estimates the clearing effort to take months, or even longer, due to the debris’ consistency, which is similar to a concrete mixture.
“It is almost like a slurry, because the river was in there, there’s heavy rain as you know in Washington, we found out there’s a lot of rain. It rains all the time,” Bakas said. “So, doing the searches, it was basically, we were actually laying wood down, walking across logs, we watched the guys, we brought wood support in so they could build trails, so they could get in to different areas..”
One of the primary challenges and objectives was to get heavy machinery on the site.
“Getting out there and getting their footing was incredibly difficult, so as it went by it kind of dried out, which helped, along with bringing heavy equipment in to start de-layering,” Bakas said. “There’s no way they could have searched everything by hand.”
Meanwhile, Chief Bakas expects that the only survivors pulled from the mud were those who were rescued almost immediately after the slide.