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  • 26 March 2014, 23:44

Mudslide: Boy's Rescue Filmed Amid Destruction

Dramatic footage has been released of the moment a four-year-old boy was rescued from the mudslide in Washington state that has left at least 24 people dead.

Jacob Spillers is seen being attended to by rescuers who have flown in on a helicopter just hours after thousands of tons of mud flattened dozens of houses in Oso.

He was one of only two people in his family to survive after his house took a direct hit.

His stepbrother, father and two other siblings are still missing. His mother was not at the house and survived.

Sixteen people have so far been confirmed dead after Saturday's disaster.

Emergency services said overnight they had located what they thought were another eight bodies, increasing the death toll, but they have yet to be recovered.

As many as 176 others are missing but authorities do not know whether they are people who have not been in touch, or are under the debris. Some people may also have been counted twice.

"I'm very confident that that number will drop in the end," said John Pennington, head of the Snohomish County Emergency Management Department.

An updated total is expected later on Wednesday.

Residents of the nearby town of Darrington have now been allowed to help emergency services comb through the wreckage.

Emergency workers have been using dogs and specialist electronic equipment to try to find survivors and bodies.

Their search has been hampered by the weather and the sheer amount of debris, much of which can only be removed by hand, in one of the worst such disasters in the United States.

"Unfortunately, we did not find any signs of life today, we didn't locate anybody alive, so that's the disappointing part," Snohomish County fire district chief Travis Hotssaid.

He said the emergency operation was still focused on finding survivors as well as recovering bodies.

"We haven't lost hope that there's a possibility that we can find someone," he said.

The mudslide smashed through the small community, about 55 miles (90km) north of Seattle, on Saturday morning.

Mr Hots said some 50 more searchers had been brought in to sift through the disaster zone in hopes of a miracle.

"This makes up over 200 responders that are here on site working very hard to locate victims and hopefully find somebody that is still alive. That is still our number-one priority out there," he said.

Around 30 homes were destroyed and dozens more damaged as much of the riverside village was swept away.

The torrent of mud was unleashed after the hillside above the village became saturated by rain.

Reports suggest that authorities may have known about the potential for deadly landslides in the area.

A 2010 report commissioned by Snohomish County found that some neighbourhoods were at especially high risk because of the gradient of the hills and the soil type, according to the Seattle Times.

But John Pennington said people in the town "knew the risk, but they felt safe in the small events".

"This wasn't a small event. It was large, it was very catastrophic," he added.

President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration ordering US government assistance to add to state and local relief efforts in the area.

"We hope for the best, but we recognise this is a tough situation," he said.

The disaster already ranks as one of the deadliest landslides in recent US history.

In 2005, 10 people died when a hillside gave way and engulfed homes in La Conchita, California.

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