President Declares Major Disaster in Oso, Washington as Landslide Deaths Reach 29
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster for the region of Washington State decimated by the March 22 landslide, which at last count had killed 29 people, with 19 still missing.
Twenty-six of the deceased had been identified by Wednesday afternoon April 2, reported the Associated Press and King5 News.
The disaster declaration will do little to mitigate the grief but could help with recovery efforts in the landslide that caused an estimated $10 million in damage, according to state estimates. The declaration makes federal aid available to “supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by flooding and mudslides beginning on March 22, 2014, and continuing,” the White House said in a statement. The disaster declaration follows the initial emergency declaration that Obama issued on March 24.
“The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Snohomish County, including the Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, and Tulalip Tribes,” the White House statement noted. “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is “working closely with residents, tribal members and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area on a one-on-one basis,” the statement said. Michael J. Hall has been designated as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. More aid designations could be made in future if the situation warrants, the White House said.
At least one tribe was mourning one of their own: Victim Summer Raffo, who was driving through Oso on State Route 530 when the wall of mud came crashing down, was the 36-year-old sister of Tulalip tribal policeman Dayn Brunner, age 42, according to the Los Angeles Times. The slide crossed and dammed the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, blocking the highway as well.
Area tribes have jumped in with assistance and donations, including the Stillaguamish, Tulalip, Snoqualmie and Sauk-Suiattle.
Preliminary reports have indicated that logging may have been partly responsible for the slide, according to a report in the Seattle Times.
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