President Obama declared an emergency in Washington state after a Saturday landslide buried a square mile of land in Snohomish County.
The death toll rose to 14 with 176 names on a list of people unaccounted for. CNN reported the landslide was about 4,400 feet wide and end in piles of debris up to 40 feet high, blocking the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and raising flooding fears. Rescuers are having difficultly combing through the unstable ground.
The emergency declaration “authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Snohomish County.”
The Department of Transportation also provided $1 million in Emergency Relief funds. The slide blocked State Route 530 between Arlington and Darrington.
Yesterday on the Senate floor, Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the town of Oso, population 180, was directly hit.
“It’s impossible to describe the scope of the devastation there,” Murray said. “There isn’t a single person who hasn’t been impacted by this tragedy…but there also isn’t a single person who isn’t doing everything they can to help.”
She stressed that grocery stores were giving out food to those who needed it and local tribal leaders are assisting in the search-and-rescue effort.
“I just want our colleagues to know that this weekend what I saw is some of the worst devastation I’ve ever witnessed in my home state,” Murray continued. “But at the same time I also saw firefighters who hadn’t slept, refusing to stop searching for survivors. I saw families refusing to give up hope. And I saw communities that need our entire state and our entire country to stand with them now.”
Snohomish County Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) stressed over the weekend that danger still remains in the area.
“There are flooding concerns both upstream from the location of the mudslide and downstream should the debris dam breach,” she said. “I strongly urge all residents who are in the flood plain along the Stillaguamish River to follow the direction of local officials to go to higher ground.”