Over 170 people remain missing after a powerful mudslide struck a rural neighborhood in Oso, Washington. Local authorities have confirmed eight injuries and 14 deaths. The disaster also destroyed nearly 50 buildings. Rescue teams continue to search for trapped residents, but safety hazards have impeded their efforts. A county fire chief reported that the crews did not locate any new survivors on Monday.
The missing individuals include locals, motorists, repair workers and visitors to the area. Approximately 11 feet of wreckage and mud inundated state Route 530, possibly trapping drivers in their cars. Residents fear that many people remained at home when the disaster began late Saturday morning. Hopes of finding survivors continue to fade as each hour passes.
Rescue workers brave perilous conditions as they search the neighborhood. Further mudslides remain possible, and a river blockage could cause flooding. Ongoing rain increases the probability of additional disasters. Although the mud has thickened, people can still sink and drown in it. Ruptured fuel tanks have also polluted the area.
Authorities added 68 names to the list of missing people on Tuesday. This raised the total count from 108 to 176. However, officials believe that the number will fall as new information becomes available. Some visitors to Oso might have departed before the mudslide began. Likewise, residents on the list may have been working, shopping or traveling at the time.
To assist local emergency personnel, the federal government and California dispatched large search teams to Snohomish County on Monday. Workers are using aircraft, radar and sonar to look for survivors and bodies. Dogs with rescue training have also taken part in the search. Stories of narrow escapes from the mud appeared in news reports on Sunday. One survivor drew attention to his location by using a stick to bang on his roof.
At least three factors combined to trigger Saturday’s deadly mudslide. Experts point to heavy rain as the primary cause. Western Washington State received significant amounts of precipitation during the past two to three months. This increased the nearby river’s water level, causing erosion and further destabilizing the hillside. The soil composition may have also played a role; water can easily loosen sand and clay.
In Washington, mudslides most frequently happen in the spring and winter. A similar disaster occurred about eight years ago in Oso, but it produced far less damage. People can reduce mudslide and landslide risks by reinforcing the base of a hill. However, this would be difficult to accomplish in Snohomish County; it contains numerous
potential mudslide zones.
Saturday’s mudslide destroyed practically everything in its path. It demolished dozens of houses, smashed motor vehicles and uprooted countless trees. Washington’s governor reported that the disaster leveled every structure within a square mile. The property damage was confined to a relatively small area, but it surpassed the harm caused by many hurricanes, floods
Sadly, the survivors of this disaster may face long-term financial hardship. Insurers often reject claims associated with mudslides. One reason is that many insurance companies put mudflows and mudslides in separate coverage categories. A mudflow usually occurs as the result
of a flood and inflicts less property damage. Some insurers will only compensate homeowners if an earthquake triggers a mudslide.
Insurance agencies frequently use ambiguous and confusing language in their policy documents. Many adjusters deceive disaster victims into believing that they are not entitled to compensation. If a home or auto insurer denies your claim, contact an experienced property damage lawyer for assistance. An attorney can interpret the exact meaning of the fine print, assess the circumstances and determine if an insurance company is legally obligated to pay.