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Washington mudslide death toll rises to 33 and donations roll in to help

A sign stands outside a home showing support for the Oso community and the victims of the devastating mudslide.
A sign stands outside a home showing support for the Oso community and the victims of the devastating mudslide.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Oso is a rural community north of Seattle with a population of 130 and it has been over two weeks since a 177 foot mudslide full of dirt, water, and debris wiped out at least 30 homes. Some of the homes were second homes and but most were primary residences. Oso attracted those who desired a country lifestyle and a peaceful getaway.

The death toll from the devastating mudslide in Oso, Washington has risen to 33, as reported by the medical examiner’s office in Snohomish County. Reports suggest that three people remain unidentified.

The list of missing still includes 10 people, but the medical examiner’s office insists that missing people does not necessarily equate to the number of people dead. The list of missing people is not fixed as people are identified both as missing and as found. A separate report on KXLY News suggests that the missing number is actually as high as 13.

The search is continuing with the Army Corps of Engineers working on a project to stop flooding of Highway 530. The forecast is predicting heavy rain on Tuesday that could cause water to rise a foot. The water from the local river has already been affected by the mudslide, and the diverted and pooled water could easily flood with the excess rain. To prevent flooding the engineers are creating a rock and gravel barrier, known as a berm, to hold back water from the river.

A report by the Seattle Times delved into the question: Who is going to pay for the damage? "Thirty of the 42 homes in the destroyed neighborhood were primary residences; none of the 30 had landslide insurance and almost all of them belonged to low-income families." Homeowners are still being held responsible to pay the mortgages of their destroyed homes.

Donations are of increasing importance as the community asks who is going to pay for the damage. According to the geologist Daniel J. Miller, as reported by the Washington Post, "he wrote in his 1999 report that the Hazel Landslide, as the mountain is known, was constantly shifting, experiencing landslides and would one day suffer 'a catastrophic failure.'" Residents have expressed outrage that they were allowed to build their homes on such dangerous lands.

Donations are rolling into the community through websites like Give Forward and the General Darrington Fund via the Coastal Community Bank. The Give Forward website was set up for the Kuntz family who, according to the website, “lost everything when the mountain gave way to a colossal mudslide.” Already the website has secured $14,755 in donations by 108 donors.

Those who know the small town and those in it are also helping from afar. Shandra Wilson, from Tumwater, told the Examiner, “A good friend of my family lost everything, one way to help Oso is by donating to the community.”

Oso is the name in the headlines, but its neighboring community Darrington also experienced unprecedented death and destruction. Darrington has a population of 1,347 according to the 2010 census. It has been a magnet for adventure tourists looking for hiking, white water fishing, and wilderness camping. According to the Snohomish tourism website, their annual Bluegrass Festival in July usually draws 5,000 visitors. Previously heavy rains and flooding damaged trails and roads in Mt Baker Snoqualmie Forest. The recent destructive mudslide may deeply affect the tourist economy in the area.

US Officials recently toured the Oso mudslide devastation. After seeing the deadly mudslide aftermath, Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said in a conference, “It is clear there is more work to do.”

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