In the struggle to find loved ones, family members and neighbours used chainsaws and their bare hands to pick through wreckage that was tangled by the mud into piles of filthy debris.
The list of potentially missing people topped 176, following Saturday's disaster about 55 miles north-east of Seattle, Washington.
But Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington stressed that the authorities believed this included many duplicate names.
The lack of definitive information two days after the mile-wide slide, which destroyed a cluster of homes at the bottom of a river valley, increased anxieties for those waiting for news.
County fire district chief Travis Hots said: "The situation is very grim.
"We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday."