TOLEDO - Air search and rescue crews Were to seek out 14 bodies on Mount St. Helens today and bring them back for identification.
The bodies are those found since Sunday's volcanic eruption but not listed among the confirmed dead. Streamers dropped from helicopters on previous flights over the mountain marked the locations.
About 25 helicopters from three air military units were to participate in the recovery mission. Crews also continued an ongoing search for others reported missing.
The crews were scheduled to fly the missions Wednesday, but rain and clouds forced cancellation. Weather today at this tiny two-strip airport about 30 miles northwest of Mount St. Helens was not much better.
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A steady rain was falling early today and only two of UH-1 Hueys had managed to make it here so far from their bases near Tacoma and Portland. Toledo's airport is being used as the command center for the rescue operation, said Lt. Col. David Lambert, of the Civil Air Patrol. It is now closed to civilian use..
"We'll utilize the aircraft on a basis of need," said Lambert. They will not all be in the air at once, he added.
Lambert said the dead known to be on the mountain do not all appear to have been killed by the volcano. About 70 people have been reported missing, officials say.
"Some were in areas that were not problem areas," he said. He speculated they may have been injured and died or tried to walk out and didn't make it.
Some bodies were found alone, but there are more than one in some locations.
A temporary morgue has been set up at the air strip under the direction of the Lewis County coroner. All those reported missing have been from Lewis, Cowlitz and or Skamania counties.
Tentative identification will be made at the airport based on what can be found with the bodies, but positive identification will be made in Vancouver.
Since the eruption Sunday, 129 persons have been rescued by helicopter from Mount St. Helens, a National Guard spokesman said.
Crews pulled out 113 people Sunday, 15 on Monday and one on Tuesday. Four were injured, including one with a broken leg and three with burns.