At least 25 people were confirmed dead almost a week after landslide sent mud crashing into dozens of rural Washington state homes, searchers said, as locals faced up to the prospect that some of the 90 still missing might never be found.
As the death toll ticked slowly higher late on Wednesday, a deeply traumatized community rallied round to comfort the bereaved and support rescue crews with everything from free food to prayer vigils.
Stores in nearby Arlington put up handed-painted signs calling for solidarity and donations, boy scouts collected food outside a market and a bowling league offered tournament prize money to relief efforts.
Construction worker Steve Findley cooked breakfast for dozens of residents inside an Arlington middle school that the American Red Cross had transformed into a temporary shelter.
"All the people I know are gone," he said.
"This is a very strong community… We all stick together," said 25-year-old Jamie Olsen as her husband and about 40 people in another nearby town Darrington sorted water, food, diapers and other supplies for families forced out of their homes.
A rain-soaked hillside collapsed near the tiny town of Oso, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle last Saturday, cascading over a river and a road into homes, blanketing about a square mile in muck and debris.
About 200 searchers combed through the disaster zone under cloudy skies on Wednesday. Rain was forecast on Thursday.
Emergency crews used dogs, small cameras and sophisticated listening devices to try and find buried bodies as other workers removed debris by hand.
Late on Wednesday evening Brian McMahan, assistant fire chief of the community of Mukilteo, told a community meeting in Darrington that one additional body had been found that day, bringing the known total to 25.
President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration ordering U.S. government assistance to supplement state and local relief efforts. A local disaster relief account had nearly $50,000 in it on Thursday.