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Squatters in Venezuela's 45-Story 'Tower of David'

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In 1990, construction began on the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, a huge high-rise office complex in Caracas, Venezuela. Construction halted in 1994, after a banking crisis and the death of the building's main investor, David Brillembourg. The 45-story tower stood vacant until 2007, when squatters began moving in, displaced by a massive housing shortage in Caracas. Authorities turned a blind eye, and the skyscraper, nicknamed the "Tower of David" (after David Brillembourg), is now home to more than 3,000 residents. The third-highest skyscraper in the country has been jury-rigged with electricity and water up to the 22nd floor. Reuters photographer Jorge Silva spent some time with tower residents earlier this year, returning with these photographs of the world's tallest slum. [26 photos]

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Gabriel Rivas, 30, lifts weights on a balcony on the 28th floor of the 45-story "Tower of David" skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, on February 9, 2014. The half-completed building, abandoned in 1994, started attracting squatters in 2007, and is now home to more than 3,000. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)
Gabriel Rivas, 30, lifts weights on a balcony on the 28th floor of the 45-story "Tower of David" skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, on February 9, 2014. The half-completed building, abandoned in 1994, started attracting squatters in 2007, and is now home to more than 3,000. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)
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The Easter Rocket War of Vrontados

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Every Easter, in the Greek village of Vrontados, members of rival churches sitting across a small valley stage a "rocket war" by firing thousands of homemade rockets towards each other while services are held. The objective for each side is to strike the bell of the opposing church. The festival, called Rouketopolemos, has been celebrated by the churches of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani for at least 125 years, its exact origins a mystery. Gathered here are images of this rocket war from the past few years. [26 photos]

Rockets fly over bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on April 26, 2008. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis)
Rockets fly over bell tower of Agios Markos church during Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on April 26, 2008. Two rival parishes of Vrontados village fire thousands of rockets every Easter Saturday aiming at the opposing church's bell tower in a centuries-old tradition. (Reuters/Yiorgos Karahalis)
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Battling for Control of Eastern Ukraine

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For the past few weeks, armed groups of pro-Russian men have been storming and seizing government buildings in towns across eastern Ukraine. Angered by the new pro-western Ukrainian government and emboldened by Russia's annexation of Crimea, these groups are demanding separation from Ukraine. Ukraine's new government has asked for western assistance, as it tries to recapture police stations, airbases, and other government properties -- without resorting to violence that may trigger a Russian response. Meanwhile, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are deploying in eastern Ukraine, with even more Russian soldiers massed on the other side of the border. NATO officials said they planned to deploy more forces in eastern Europe and called for Russia to stop "destabilizing" the former Soviet satellite, which has been in deep turmoil since the ouster of the pro-Kremlin leadership in February. [36 photos]

An armed pro-Russian man stands outside the seized mayor's office in Slaviansk, Ukraine, on April 14, 2014. Towns in eastern Ukraine on Monday braced for military action from government forces as a deadline passed for pro-Russian separatists to disarm and end their occupation of state buildings or face a major "anti-terrorist" operation. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)
An armed pro-Russian man stands outside the seized mayor's office in Slaviansk, Ukraine, on April 14, 2014. Towns in eastern Ukraine on Monday braced for military action from government forces as a deadline passed for pro-Russian separatists to disarm and end their occupation of state buildings or face a major "anti-terrorist" operation. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)
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South Korea Ferry Sinks, Hundreds Missing

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Yesterday, off the coast of South Korea, a large passenger ferry named the Sewol sank in calm seas, while carrying more than 450 passengers, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island. Officials currently confirm only 164 have been rescued, another four listed as killed, leaving approximately 300 passengers still missing. By nightfall, the Sewol had turned upside down, sinking nearly completely below the surface -- only a small part of its bow still visible. Reuters quoted one survivor as saying "The on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped." As anxious relatives await word, officials have resumed rescue operations after a short pause during the darkest hours of the night. [23 photos]

Passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast are rescued by South Korean Coast guard in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, on April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday morning, several hours after the ferry carrying more than 450 passengers, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
Passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast are rescued by South Korean Coast guard in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, on April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday morning, several hours after the ferry carrying more than 450 passengers, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
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Scenes of Spring

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Temperatures in the northern hemisphere are finally warming, flowers are blooming, and the sunshine beckons us outside once again. On a nice spring day like today, I thought I'd share some recent colorful images of the season from Germany, Japan, Scotland, the United States, and more. [28 photos]

Thousands of Bluebells bloom, carpeting a forest near Halle, south of Brussels, Belgium, on April 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
Thousands of Bluebells bloom, carpeting a forest near Halle, south of Brussels, Belgium, on April 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
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Fire Destroys 2,000 Houses in Valparaiso

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In the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, a massive fire started late Saturday. Fueled by strong winds, flames swept across hilly residential areas, destroying more than 2,000 houses and killing at least 12. Firefighters battled the blaze throughout the weekend and are still extinguishing isolated hot spots. Today, some Valparaiso residents are being allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage, recover what they can, and plan their next steps. [32 photos]

Embers are carried by high winds as a large forest fire reaches urban areas in Valparaiso, Chile, on April 13, 2014. Authorities say the fires destroyed thousands of homes, forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 and claimed the lives of at least 12 people. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
Embers are carried by high winds as a large forest fire reaches urban areas in Valparaiso, Chile, on April 13, 2014. Authorities say the fires destroyed thousands of homes, forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 and claimed the lives of at least 12 people. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
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A Hundred-Pound Suit of Bees

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On Wednesday, on a hill in China's Chongqing municipality, 34-year-old beekeeper She Ping covered himself in 460,000 bees weighing 45.65kg (100 pounds) in a publicity stunt to promote his honey sales. The bee suit fell well short of the record 135 lbs claimed by India's Vipin Seth, according to Guinness. Ping claims he was stung about 20 times during the 40-minute stunt. [12 photos]

She Ping, a 34 year-old beekeeper, covered with a swarm of bees on a small hill in southwest China's Chongqing municipality on April 9, 2014. Ping released more than 460,000 bees, using queen bees to attract them to his body, and made himself a suit of bees that weighed 45.65kg (100 pounds) within 40 minutes. (AFP/Getty Images)
She Ping, a 34 year-old beekeeper, covered with a swarm of bees on a small hill in southwest China's Chongqing municipality on April 9, 2014. Ping released more than 460,000 bees, using queen bees to attract them to his body, and made himself a suit of bees that weighed 45.65kg (100 pounds) within 40 minutes. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Frozen In Time: The Cyprus Buffer Zone

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This year marks four decades since the Cyprus National Guard staged a coup that led to Turkish military intervention and escalated the civil war between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island. After the ceasefire, a heavily restricted buffer zone, controlled by the United Nations, was established between the north and south. It stretches 180 km (112 mi) across the whole island measuring 7.4 km (4.6 mi) at its widest and 3.3 m (11 ft) at its narrowest point. The demilitarized zone is restricted to the general public and no Greek or Turkish Cypriots are allowed inside. Reuters photographer Neil Hall recently visited the buffer zone, which still contains crumbling relics of times gone by - abandoned houses, businesses, and even an airport - crumbling snapshots of Cyprus in 1974. [28 photos]

The abandoned Nicosia International Airport near Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 10, 2014. For 40 years now, a buffer zone - a no-man's land controlled by the United Nations - has split Cyprus from east to west, with Cyprus's ethnic Greeks living in the south, and its Turks in the north. The buffer zone still contains crumbling relics of times gone by - abandoned houses, businesses and even an airport. In 1960, a power-sharing government crumbled soon after independence from Britain, and the island has been divided since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. (Reuters/Neil Hall)
The abandoned Nicosia International Airport near Nicosia, Cyprus, on March 10, 2014. For 40 years now, a buffer zone - a no-man's land controlled by the United Nations - has split Cyprus from east to west, with Cyprus's ethnic Greeks living in the south, and its Turks in the north. The buffer zone still contains crumbling relics of times gone by - abandoned houses, businesses and even an airport. In 1960, a power-sharing government crumbled soon after independence from Britain, and the island has been divided since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. (Reuters/Neil Hall)
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Smithsonian Magazine's 2013 Photo Contest

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The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the 60 finalists in their 11th annual photo contest. They've kindly allowed me to share several of these images here, including some great shots from each of the competition's six categories: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile, a new category this year. Be sure to visit the contest page at Smithsonian.com to see all the finalists, and vote in the Reader's Choice Awards as well. [16 photos]

Finalist, Natural World category. A coastal brown bear hunts for salmon on Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Photographed by Daniel D'Auria of Tabernacle, New Jersey. (© Smithsonian.com)
Finalist, Natural World category. A coastal brown bear hunts for salmon on Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Photographed by Daniel D'Auria of Tabernacle, New Jersey. (© Smithsonian.com)
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London and the U.K. From Above

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Photographer Jason Hawkes has been making fascinating aerial images since 1991. With a gyro-stabilized camera, he takes photos directly from the open door of a helicopter. Hawkes has covered subjects around the world, but specializes in aerial shots of the United Kingdom. Once more, he's been kind enough to share some of his recent photos with us here. [24 photos]

St Michael's Mount, situated just off the Mount's Bay coast of Cornwall. See it mapped here. (© Jason Hawkes)
St Michael's Mount, situated just off the Mount's Bay coast of Cornwall. See it mapped here. (© Jason Hawkes)
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Nyepi, the Balinese 'Day of Silence'

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Every year, Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali celebrate Nyepi, the Balinese New Year's Day. Nyepi is a day of silence, reserved for self-reflection, where people stay home and are not allowed to use lights, start fires, work, travel or enjoy entertainment -- even tourists are asked not to leave their hotels. However, the days surrounding Nyepi are anything but silent - several rituals of offering and cleansing take place before and after New Year's Day, to rid worshipers of past evils and bestow good fortune in the year ahead. Devotees burn huge demonic effigies, whip each other with fiery coconut husks, give prayers and offerings, and young couples are doused with water during a lively kissing festival. Gathered here are images from Nyepi rituals in Bali and other parts of Indonesia over the past few years. [27 photos]

A Balinese man hits another with a burned coconut husk during the "Mesabatan Api" ritual a head of Nyepi Day in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, on March 30, 2014. Mesabatan Api is held annually a day before the Nyepi Day of Silence, symbolizing the purification of the universe and human body through fire. Nyepi is a Hindu celebration observed every new year according to the Balinese calendar. The national holiday is one of self-reflection and meditation -- activities such as working, watching television or traveling are restricted between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)
A Balinese man hits another with a burned coconut husk during the "Mesabatan Api" ritual a head of Nyepi Day in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia, on March 30, 2014. Mesabatan Api is held annually a day before the Nyepi Day of Silence, symbolizing the purification of the universe and human body through fire. Nyepi is a Hindu celebration observed every new year according to the Balinese calendar. The national holiday is one of self-reflection and meditation -- activities such as working, watching television or traveling are restricted between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)
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Photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

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Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed today, shot to death by an Afghan policeman while covering the upcoming national election. She covered conflicts from Bosnia to Afghanistan for more than 20 years, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, as part of a team of AP photographers covering the Iraq War. Last November I was very happy to be able to feature her amazing work in a photo essay titled "Afghanistan: Seen Through the Lens of Anja Niedringhaus." What I wrote then remains true: Documenting a decades-long story like the Afghanistan War is a challenge for any photojournalist, from simple logistical issues, to serious safety concerns, to the difficulty of keeping the narrative fresh and compelling. Niedringhaus did a remarkable job, telling people's stories with a strong, consistent voice, an amazing eye for light and composition, and a level of compassion that clearly shows through her images. A remarkable voice has been lost today. [30 photos]

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus stands next to photographs from Iraq, left, and Afghanistan, right, during a press preview of her exhibition "Anja Niedringhaus At War" at the Gallery C/O in Berlin on September 9, 2011. (Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus stands next to photographs from Iraq, left, and Afghanistan, right, during a press preview of her exhibition "Anja Niedringhaus At War" at the Gallery C/O in Berlin on September 9, 2011. (Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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The Aftermath of Chile's Earthquake

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Late Tuesday night, a tremendous earthquake struck off the coast of northern Chile, near the town of Iquique. The magnitude 8.2 quake triggered a localized tsunami that battered the coastline with seven-foot waves. The shallow temblor (12.5 miles below the seabed) also set off dozens of aftershocks -- 18 of them above magnitude 5.0 so far, including a magnitude 7.6 aftershock last night. Surprisingly, damage and casualties were very limited. Several fires erupted, smaller structures suffered minimal damage, and six deaths were reported -- the victims were either crushed under debris or suffered fatal heart attacks. Today, Chile's navy cancelled a tsunami alert and its emergency office, Onemi, which had earlier asked residents to evacuate the coastline, said people could return to their homes. [25 photos]

Fishermen try to salvage their boats in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, on April 2, 2014. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.2, struck off the coast of northern Chile near the copper exporting port of Iquique on Tuesday evening, killing six and triggering a tsunami that pounded the shore with 2-meter (7-foot) waves. (Reuters/Francisco Alcayaga Motta)
Fishermen try to salvage their boats in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, on April 2, 2014. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.2, struck off the coast of northern Chile near the copper exporting port of Iquique on Tuesday evening, killing six and triggering a tsunami that pounded the shore with 2-meter (7-foot) waves. (Reuters/Francisco Alcayaga Motta)
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A Trip to Lesotho, the 'Kingdom of the Sky'

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The Kingdom of Lesotho is situated on a highland plateau entirely within South Africa. The lowest point in the mountainous country is 1,400 meters (4,593 ft) above sea level. It is home to 2.2 million residents, most of them poor, living off the land as farmers. Gathered here are a handful of images from across Lesotho over the past few years. [21 photos]

The mountains of the Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains, between South Africa and Lesotho, on May 26, 2007. (CC BY SA Mark Peacock)
The mountains of the Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains, between South Africa and Lesotho, on May 26, 2007. (CC BY SA Mark Peacock)
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The Modern Face of Kabul

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Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, the country's capital city of Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene, a handful of sleek shopping malls, cafes, and more. Reuters photographer Morteza Nikoubazl recently set out to document modern Kabul, populated by musicians, artists, athletes, and activists who are trying to live 21st-century lives in spite of massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present threat of militant attacks. Afghanistan is preparing for an election on April 5 that should mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country's history, but it has been hit by a tide of violence as the Taliban has ordered its fighters to disrupt the vote and threatened to kill anyone who participates. Many of the people in these images were happy to be photographed, but did not want to give their names. This photo essay is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [26 photos]

Mahmoud Hejran (2nd from left) and Zabih Hosseini (center), members of the Afghan band Tanin, play the guitar and sing as they travel back to their music studio after performing on a live TV program in Kabul on March 4, 2014. Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, and several recent militant attacks, the country's capital Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene of musicians, artists, athletes and activists. Shopping malls and cafes stand in the city, which is nonetheless beset by infrastructure problems and instability. (Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl)
Mahmoud Hejran (2nd from left) and Zabih Hosseini (center), members of the Afghan band Tanin, play the guitar and sing as they travel back to their music studio after performing on a live TV program in Kabul on March 4, 2014. Despite decades of conflict in Afghanistan, and several recent militant attacks, the country's capital Kabul is home to a vibrant youth scene of musicians, artists, athletes and activists. Shopping malls and cafes stand in the city, which is nonetheless beset by infrastructure problems and instability. (Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl)
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California's Historic Drought

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The year 2013 was the driest in California's recorded history, and predictions for 2014 aren't much better. Three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall have left reservoirs at a fraction of their normal depth, seriously threatening farms in the state that grows half the nation's fruits and vegetables. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency and signed a $687 million drought-relief package into law, and 125 additional firefighters have been hired already in anticipation of a dangerous upcoming fire season. One bright spot: gold prospecting. Amateur prospectors are flocking to the Sierra Nevada foothills, taking advantage of lower water levels to search for gold in riverbeds that have been unreachable for decades. [25 photos]

Houseboats are docked at Bridge Bay in Shasta Lake, which is 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels, in Shasta, California, on January 23, 2014. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have very low water levels. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
Houseboats are docked at Bridge Bay in Shasta Lake, which is 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels, in Shasta, California, on January 23, 2014. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs throughout the state have very low water levels. (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
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St. Petersburg From Above

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Recently, photographer Amos Chapple spent some time in Saint Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city. He used a small drone to lift his camera high above the cathedrals and fortresses, capturing some amazing aerial photos. Chapple: "There's a legend in Russia that Saint Petersburg was constructed in the blue heavens and lowered in one piece into the marshland, 'for how otherwise could a city so beautiful exist in a region so bleak.'" Chapple, has previously showed us Stalin's Rope Roads, and took us on a trip to Turkmenistan. [12 photos]

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood during a squally autumn morning. The church marks the spot where the reformist Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by a bomb-rolling revolutionary. (Amos Chapple/Rex Features)
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood during a squally autumn morning. The church marks the spot where the reformist Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by a bomb-rolling revolutionary. (Amos Chapple/Rex Features)
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At Least 14 Dead in Washington State Mudslide

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Last Saturday, at 10:45 am, part of a hillside above Oso, Washington -- known by some locals as "Slide Hill" -- collapsed after weeks of heavy rain, sending a wall of mud and debris across a small valley of the Stillaguamish River. The neighborhood below the hillside was destroyed, and more than 100 properties damaged, resulting in at least 14 verified deaths -- a number that may grow larger, as the list of missing has grown to 176. Efforts to rescue victims have been slow, as the surrounding hills remain dangerously unstable and the affected area is so large. Rescue workers continued their search throughout last night. [16 photos]

An aerial photo taken Monday, March 24, 2014, shows the massive mudslide that killed at least 14 people on Saturday and left dozens missing, near Oso, Washington. The search for survivors grew this week, raising fears that the death toll could climb far beyond the eight confirmed fatalities. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
An aerial photo taken Monday, March 24, 2014, shows the massive mudslide that killed at least 14 people on Saturday and left dozens missing, near Oso, Washington. The search for survivors grew this week, raising fears that the death toll could climb far beyond the eight confirmed fatalities. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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