Eight confirmed dead after Oso landslide

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 26 at 9:46 AM

Eight people are now confirmed dead after a massive landslide slammed into homes near Oso. Search and rescue crews planned to continue searching until nightfall.

Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said crews were able to get in on foot.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today so of course that's very disappointing to all of our emegency responders here on the scene," he said.

As family members waited for word on their missing loved ones, Gov. Jay Inslee assured them that there is a full scale rescue effort ongoing.

Inslee flew over the site of the devastation on Sunday afternoon and said at an afternoon press conference that the slide is "10 times more devastating" when you see it in person.

The debris wall is 1.5 miles across and 15-20 feet deep in some places.

Inslee said there is a full scale, aggressive rescue effort ongoing.

“Every human possibility is being explored to rescue people,” he said.

Caroline Neal's 52-year-old father Steven is a plumber who took a service call Saturday morning to install a hot water heater on Steelhead Drive.

"My dad is a quick thinker and he is someone who takes action in an emergency. If he had any warning at all, we just have to think he is somewhere and he's safe and they just can't reach him right now," she said.

The Governor declared a state of emergency and late Saturday night and on Sunday said he is talking with FEMA about a federal disaster declaration.

Sen. Patty Murray said her office is working closely with Gov. Inslee and emergency responders to provide assistance.

"In the coming days and weeks, I will continue to be briefed on all state and local response efforts, and if federal assistance is required, I will ensure that Washington state gets all the federal resources it needs," she said.

The wife and son of the man who was helping her dad on that job were comforted by Governor Jay Inslee when he heard the news that 66-year-old Bill Welsh, like Steven Neal, is missing.

Hots said the number of missing is fluid and could change because some people may have been in cars and on roads when the slide hit just before 11 a.m. Saturday.

LANDSLIDE EMERGENCY INFORMATION

Authorities say the slide wiped out one neighborhood of 28 to 30 homes.

As authorities tried to determine how to get responders on the ground safely, helicopters were flying over the area looking for people who may have been able to get out on their own.

The slide blocked the north fork of the Stillaguamish River.

People downstream from the blockage were advised to evacuate Saturday night but the evacuation recommendation was lifted Sunday because it didn’t appear that there would be a massive breach all at once, rather it is beginning to trickle out.

Inslee addressed the issue in his press conference, saying “The conclusion that’s been reached by the analysts is that the risk is not great enough to cause an evacuation and that the river will find its way through some kind of a graded channel over the days and weeks to come to be relieved.”

REUNIFICATION, EVACUATION AND SHELTER INFORMATION: 425-388-5088

First responders in Snohomish County called it the worst slide, the worst natural disaster, they've seen in decades.

"Think back to what Mount St. Helens and Toutle River looked like -- and that's what we're looking at," said Rodney Rochon of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.

Shelters were set up at Post Middle School in Arlington and the Darrington Cummunity Center. The Red Cross is assisting.

More than 100 first responders converged on the scene, including those from Washington State Patrol, Department of Transportation, Department of Emergency Management, US Navy, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and most all of the fire department agencies in north Snohomish County.

WSDOT said Sunday SR 530 is blocked indefinitely and they are working with Snohomish County to open the Mountain Loop Highway as an alternate route for people to get around the slide. They will be using a snow blower and Snohomish County is using a grader to clear the road of snow but there is no estimate on how long that will take.

The Darrington School District said there would be no school Monday and classes won't start until 10:15 on Tuesday. Wednesday through Friday, schools will be on an early release schedule.

If you are directly impacted by the slide you can register on the Red Cross website safeandwell.org so family and friends will know you are OK.

Follow @snocounty and @SnoCoSheriff for the latest updates on the situation.

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