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Washington landslide's confirmed death toll at 24; 22 are missing

ARLINGTON, Wash. — The confirmed death toll from the massive landslide has reached 24, officials announced Monday, and the tally of the missing has dropped to 22.

Of the 24 confirmed dead, officials said, 18 have been identified. In addition, searchers found three more victims Monday who are not included in the confirmed tally. During the 10-day rescue and recovery effort, officials decided not to count victims among the confirmed dead unless their remains had been recovered.

Also Monday, officials released the names, ages and addresses of the missing.

Gary Haakenson, Snohomish County executive director, said the county had delayed identifying the missing publicly for more than a week because to do so earlier would have been irresponsible.

"There has been an exhaustive effort by the detectives to identify the missing," Haakenson said. "These are 22 people whose loved ones are grieving. We want to do all we can to find them and put some closure in place for their families."

At one point, officials had said 176 people were missing. That dropped to 90, then to 30, and now to 22.

Firefighters, soldiers, volunteers and search dogs continued to sift slide debris Monday, while also taking breaks. Those breaks are particularly important for the search dogs, officials said, so that they do not become desensitized to the scents they’re trying to find. The dogs can smell up to 10 feet deep, officials said, but some of the debris is 70 feet deep. 

Although the weather was warm and sunny Monday, drying out some areas, the search was still daunting. Searchers have focused on residential areas.

Contamination and debris disposal are concerns, officials said. The muddy expanse is considered hazardous, and wreckage that has been sorted is being stored at the site for the moment, Haakenson said. Before workers leave the site, they are cleaned and decontaminated at newly built decontamination stations. Search dogs are decontaminated too. 

More than 100 volunteers continue to assist in the search, including relatives of the missing.

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