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In Oso, The Grim Accounting Continues As United Way Prepares To Distribute Relief

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Workers carrying hand tools and shovels walk past a U.S. flag Tuesday, April 1, 2014, near Darrington, Wash., in the debris field of the deadly mudslide that hit the community of Oso,Wash. on March 22, 2014.

Searchers painstakingly combing through mud and debris have confirmed the deaths of 29 people, though more have been found than the official tally reflects. Twenty people are listed as missing.

Father Tim Sauer, pastor of Catholic churches in communities on either side of the slide, said the first funerals are expected within the next several days.

“These families are people who are still in very much in a state of shock. This event happened so suddenly, so unexpectedly that even though it’s now been quite a number of days since the event itself, families are still in a stage of trying to come to grips with it," he said.

Crews have completed a makeshift road skirting much of the slide, built in just two days.

Officials said dry weather has drawn down some of the standing water, allowing them access to more areas, but they’re preparing for heavy rain later this week.

Recovering Victims

The 5-month-old boy who was injured in the mudslide, Duke Suddarth, was transferred Tuesday from Harborview Medical Center to Children's Hospital in Seattle for follow-up treatment.

His mother, Amanda Skorjanc, remains in satisfactory condition at Harborview, awaiting more surgeries.

Three men injured in the March 22 landslide also remain at Harborview Wednesday. The hospital says a 37-year-old and an 81-year-old are both in serious condition in the intensive care unit and improving. A 58-year-old is in satisfactory condition.

Relief For Victims

A spokesman for United Way of Snohomish County said the organization plans to distribute as much as $525,000 this week to help victims.

The organization has collected $1.3 million so far for Oso relief.

Organization president Dennis Smith says $400,000 will go directly to families for immediate recovery needs such as temporary housing, child care, food, gas cards, commuting costs and support for local volunteer responders. As much as $125,000 will go to support community groups.

Smith said "100 percent of all dollars raised" will to go the recovery effort.

He said more than $550,000 has come from a telethon and related television appeals for donations, more than $410,000 has come from corporate sponsors and more than $350,000 has come from individual donations "from nearly every state."

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.