Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said rescue workers looking for victims of the Oso, Wash., mudslide are hoping for a miracle at this point in the rescue process but will continue to look for survivors as long as there is hope.
"Look, we are hoping for a miracle. And more importantly, we are working for a miracle. And we're doing everything humanly possible if that opportunity exists," Inslee said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "These searchers, both professionals and volunteer, are really performing Herculean tasks right now. They're working beyond the point of exhaustion. And we intend to exhaust every possible avenue to look for that miracle.
Still, Inslee acknowledged that there are hard days ahead for the community as they cope with the aftermath.
Authorities lowered the number of missing persons to 30 from 90 on Saturday after they eliminated duplicates from the list and located people who were simply out of the area when the mudslide hit. The search conditions continue to prove challenging as the more than 100 rescuers dig through muddy debris filled with the wreckage of homes and cars as well as waist-deep mud and water. The death toll has risen to 18.
Inslee said he didn't know exactly how long the search would go, but that there would be an "active rescue mode" as long as there was any chance of finding survivors. Additionally, the state must work to clean up a highway to the town of Darrington that was severed by the mudslide.
Asked whether the state missed warning signs from a 1999 report from the Army Corps of Engineers that examined the potential for a disaster if the hillside collapsed, Inslee said authorities would work to get to the bottom of that question. It will take months of geological research, he said, and now the focus is on the rescue effort and supporting families who lost homes and loved ones.
He thanked the whole state and country for their support and donations to the Red Cross and United Way.
"We'd like for the nation is to recognize the depths of the grief of Darrington and Oso and Arlington. But also they recognize that these are resilient independent people. And I have seen acts of courage and inspiration from the rescuers to the kids who are serving meals to the rescuers. This is a place of inspiration, as well. And I hope people are proud of what's going on in this area right now," he said.