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Published: Sunday, 3/30/2014

Landslide survivors gather to grieve, hope

Washington governor: ‘Working for a miracle’

Randy Fay helps Jetty Dooper of the Netherlands a day after the mudslide. More than a week later, the search for bodies — and survivors — continues. Randy Fay helps Jetty Dooper of the Netherlands a day after the mudslide. More than a week later, the search for bodies — and survivors — continues.

OSO, Wash. — Inside Oso Community Chapel on Sunday, locals gathered for a service eight days after a devastating landslide killed at least 21 people, including a 4-month-old girl and her grandmother.

There were tears and despair but also songs and joy for those saved. Thirty people remain missing.

“We pray for strength and endurance for all those working on the rescues,” Tim Alskog said.

He wore one of the green “Oso Strong” T-shirts, now a common sight around town. Proceeds from the shirts go to survivors and the families of those who died.

Others wore yellow ribbons. Outside the chapel, a yellow ribbon waved from a tree. Nearby, a cross was fashioned from flowers.

The Rev. Gary Ray told the congregation that he was unprepared for the nature of the disaster, the ongoing uncertainty, and grief.

Mr. Ray, who moved from California, said, “I’ve been through earthquakes, Northridge, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Also Sunday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee refused to say that all hope was lost.

“Look, we are hoping for a miracle,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “And more importantly, we are working for a miracle. And we’re doing everything humanly possible if that opportunity exists.”

Mr. Inslee said the rescue effort was “fully resourced” but that locals and officials faced a “monumental” task to restore State Rt. 530, the main highway through Oso linking the nearby towns of Arlington and Darrington.

Addressing a 1999 report that warned of the potential for catastrophic failure on the hill that collapsed on March 22, Mr. Inslee said officials would “get to the bottom” of whether the disaster was foreseeable.

Authorities have said they recovered more than two dozen bodies, but the remains won’t be added to the official tally until a formal identification is made.

Adding to the difficulty, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, crews are not always finding complete remains.

On Sunday, authorities said many of the dogs essential in the search for victims will take a two-day break after long hours in the cold and rain. The dogs can lose their sensing ability if overworked, officials said.

Fresher dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue working, said Heidi Amrine, a spokesman for the operation.

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