Inslee seeks 'major disaster' declaration

Death toll rises to 24 in Washington state mudslide

April 1, 2014

Snohomish County authorities raised the death toll to 24 in the mudslide that buried about a square mile of the Stillaguamish River last week.

As of Monday morning, officials had identified 18 of the 24 victims. Another six are awaiting identification.

County officials, who have been leading the search for any signs of life amid the mountain of shifting rubble, have also dropped the number of missing and unaccounted for down to 22 from 90.

Jason Biermann, program manager for the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, admits an actual count of fatalities might never be possible since in some instances, only partial remains have been located.

Biermann tols reporters, “The slide hit with such force that often the rescuers are not recovering full, intact victims,” which can make identification that much more difficult.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has asked President Obama for a “major disaster” declaration for the mudslide that buried the rural community.

Estimated financial losses from the deadly Washington mudslide that has killed at least 24 people have reached $10 million, the governor said Monday in a letter asking the federal government for the major disaster declaration.

A major disaster declaration is required for individual victims to apply for aid. Inslee said the total included funeral expenses for up to 48 people.

In seeking additional federal help following one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history, Inslee said about 30 families need assistance with housing, along with personal and household goods. The estimated losses include nearly $7 million in structures and more than $3 million in their contents, Inslee’s letter said.

President Obama has already authorized aid for search and rescue operations.

The slide blocked the Stillaguamish River and a highway, covering the area in mud as much as 40 feet deep. Inslee said some of those buried by the slide may never be found.

Meanwhile, a dozen members of the Seattle Seahawks football team and Seattle Sounders FC team visited Monday with more than 300 children, parents and area residents at the Darrington Community Center.

Players said they signed autographs, tossed footballs and kicked soccer balls in an effort to bring some smiles to an area hit by tragedy.

“To be able to offer a little bit of a release or distraction from what’s going on, I mean that’s all you can do,” Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith said.

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