"Emergency Crews Face Toxic Challenge in Washington State Mudslide"

"DARRINGTON, Wash. --  Recovery teams struggling through thick mud up to their armpits and heavy downpours at the site of a devastating landslide in Washington state are facing yet another challenge - an unseen and potentially more dangerous stew of toxic contaminants.

Sewage, propane, household solvents and other chemicals lie beneath the surface of the gray mud and rubble that engulfed hundreds of acres of a rural community after the mudslide that left dozens of people dead or missing northeast of Seattle on the morning of March 22, authorities said.

The official death toll was raised to 24 on Monday - up from 21 a day earlier - with 30 people still listed as unaccounted for nine days after a rain-soaked hillside collapsed above the north fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Managers of the recovery operation were taking special measures to protect the hundreds of workers on the scene from chemical exposure and to prevent toxic sludge from being carried offsite."

Eric M. Johnson reports for Reuters March 31, 2014.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014