TIME Afghanistan

Hopes for Survivors Fade After Afghan Landslides

At least 2,100 people are presumed dead after two catastrophic landslides buried hundreds of homes in the Argo district in the mountainous northeastern state of Badakhshan, Afghanistan

TIME

Washington Authorities End Mudslide Search

Washington Mudslide Transition
A search dog walks on a tree as the search continues for the remaining missing victims of the massive deadly mudslide that hit the community of Oso, Wash on April 16, 2014. Ted S. Warren—AP

The hunt for bodies of victims in Washington state has drawn to a close, five weeks after the devastating mudslide that killed 41

After weeks of searching for bodies from the March 22 mudslide in Washington state, authorities are ending the search.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said the decision to quit was difficult as there were still two bodies missing, the Associated Press reports.

41 victims have been found, and 11 people were saved on the day of the mudslide. Hundreds of people and dogs have participated in the search since the March 22 disaster.

According to the Associated Press, a commission will independently review the incident, and it could take up to three months to clear all the debris. The disaster caused around $10 million worth of damage, and a further $32 million in recovery costs.

[AP]

TIME Environment

Mudslide Community Praised by Obama During Visit

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the firehouse in Oso, Washington, April 22, 2014, after touring the devastation left by a recent landslide.
President Obama delivers remarks at the firehouse in Oso, Wash., April 22, 2014, after touring the devastation left by a recent landslide. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

President Obama tells residents of Oso, Wash., their response to the disaster that killed at least 41 people was an "inspiration"

President Barack Obama paid a visit to the small community of Oso, Wa., on Tuesday, exactly one month after a massive mudslide there claimed at least 41 lives. He promised survivors that the entire country will be on hand to help for “as long as it takes.”

“While very few Americans had heard of Oso before this disaster struck, we’ve all been inspired by the incredible way the community has come together,” he said, noting how villagers had risked their lives volunteering to find their stricken neighbors, and provided meals, chainsaws and rain jackets to those working on the front line.

Even now the death toll may still rise, as search and clearing operations continue. After weeks of efforts, however, water standing six feet deep has been drained, facilitating the navigation of heavy equipment across the still treacherous terrain.

Obama’s visit came as he prepared a tour of Asian countries, two of which have recently been struck by their own disasters — Malaysia in the case of the missing flight MH 370, and South Korea where more than 150 passengers perished when a ferry sunk last week.

In Oso, the President told residents that their spirited response in the face of adversity was what “America is all about.”

“We recover, and we build, and we come back stronger,” he said.

TIME nature

President Obama Will Survey Mudslide Damage 1 Month After Tragedy

The visit will be Obama’s only domestic stop on his way to Asia

President Barack Obama is en route Tuesday to survey the damage caused by a deadly mudslide that claimed more than 40 lives last month in Oso, Wash.

Obama is due to deliver remarks after meeting with search crews, victims’ families and others involved in the recovery effort before leaving on a four-country tour of Asia.

The disaster has officially claimed 41 lives and more than two dozen homes. Search crews have been digging through 70-foot-deep mud littered with debris in a search for the two people who remain missing.

TIME Disaster

A Survivor of the Washington Mudslide Shares Her Story

Washington mudslide survivor Amanda Skorjanc, 25, talks to the media while sitting in her hospital bed on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Seattle. Dan Bates—The Herald / Pool / AP

Amanda Skorjanc, who was watching videos at home with her infant son when the land began to move, breaks her silence on how they were injured but rescued from the disaster that has claimed 36 lives so far

Few who witnessed the terrifying mudslide that ravaged the small Washington community of Oso on March 22 lived to tell the story, but on Wednesday, Amanda Skorjanc shared her terrifying experience, which she lived through with her infant son.

“I held onto that baby like it was the only purpose that I had,” she told the AP from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she is hospitalized.

Skorjanc was watching videos at home with her son when the lights started to flicker and shake. Looking outside, she saw an enormous sludge wall pummeling through the community, launching a neighbor’s chimney in her direction.

When the horrifying deluge finally ended, Skorjanc and her baby found themselves injured but alive in a pocket formed by a damaged couch and pieces of roof.

“I started to hear sirens — the most amazing sound I ever heard,” she said, adding that she kept her eyes closed as she and her son were rescued. “I was scared and in so much pain.”

Skorjanc’s husband was out on an errand when the mudslide hit, and was unscathed.

Skorjanc, however, suffered multiple fractures, crushed ankles and injuries to an eye socket, while her son fractured his skull. While he is recovering, doctors say she will need to be off her feet for another 10 weeks — and the emotional healing will take a lot longer.

The latest death toll in the disaster is 36.

[AP]

TIME Disaster

Washington Mudslide Death Toll Hits 34

People leave a funeral service for thirty six year-old Summer Raffo, who was killed in the deadly Oso, Washington mudslide, at the Gleneagle Golf Course on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Wash.
People leave a funeral service for Summer Raffo, who was killed in the deadly Oso, Wash., mudslide, at the Gleneagle Golf Course in Arlington, Wash., on April 5, 2014 Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Medical examiners in Washington State say they have received another body in the aftermath of the March 22 mudslide that destroyed a residential neighborhood north of Seattle

Updated April 8, 11am EST

Medical examiners in Washington State’s Snohomish County have confirmed another fatality in the Oso mudslide, bringing the disaster’s death toll to 34 as of Tuesday.

Only 30 of the confirmed victims have been identified. The last victim named was Billy L. Spillers, 30, who died of multiple blunt-force injuries, the Associated Press reports. Authorities are still searching for more bodies in the aftermath of the March 22 mudslide that destroyed a residential neighborhood 55 miles (88.5 km) north of Seattle.

Funerals for the dead started over the weekend as the town of Oso mourned school custodian Summer Raffo, 36, and librarian Linda McPherson, 69, the Chicago Tribune reports. Additional services for the missing and the dead are scheduled for later this week.

[NBC News]

This piece was updated to reflect latest death toll

TIME Washington

County Considered Buying Out Homes Destroyed by Mudslide

A piece of heavy equipment moves past an American flag as search work continues in the mud and debris from a massive mudslide that struck Oso near Darrington, Washington
The search for the missing people after the deadly mudslide continues in Oso © Jason Redmond—Reuters

Snohomish County once considered buying out the properties in the Washington state neighborhood that was devastated by a massive mudslide last month that killed at least 30 people and led to a nearly two-week search for more than a dozen others

In 2004, Snohomish County was so worried about the mudslide threat near the slope that collapsed last month that the county considered purchasing the properties to protect its citizens’ safety, The Seattle Times reports.

According to documents reviewed by the paper, the costs of buying out the neighborhood “would be significant, but would remove the risk to human life and structures.”

The county instead opted for trying to stabilize the base of the slope and, after a mudslide in 2006, a wall was built to prevent a river from cutting into the base side of the hill, in an attempt to minimize the mudslide threat.

Since the horrific mudslide near the small town of Oso in Snohomish County last month, questions have been raised about the county’s awareness of the threat. Thirty people were killed by the mudslide, and 15 are still missing.

[The Seattle Times]

TIME natural disaster

Washington Mudslide Death Toll Hits 29

Benton County Assistant Fire Chief Jack Coats makes his way over debris left by a mudslide in Oso
Benton County Assistant Fire Chief Jack Coats makes his way over debris left by a mudslide in Oso, Wash., April 2, 2014. Max Whittaker—Reuters

Authorities say at least 29 people died in the Snohomish County, Wash. mudslide nearly a week and a half ago, as rescue workers continue picking through the debris field in the hopes of finding the people that are still missing

Updated April 2 at 11:20am ET

The number of confirmed deaths in the Washington state mudslide has increased to 29, officials said Wednesday.

Twenty-two of the bodies were identified as of Tuesday, up from 19 the day before. As the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office worked to identify the six other victims, rescue workers continued picking through the debris field in the hopes of finding the people that are still missing.

The search has been made slightly easier as receding floodwaters have exposed more ground that can now be examined by the search crews, the Associated Press reports. Treacherous conditions and bad weather have complicated the search for human remains buried in the debris, which is contaminated by chemicals, fuel and human waste.

Both rescue workers and search dogs are being hosed down at decontamination stations after completing their tasks.

“We’ve already had a little bit of dysentery out here,” Lt. Richard Burke of the Bellevue Fire Department told CBS News. “People are working in a septic tank of materials. We want them washed and decontaminated.”

The mudslide flattened more than two dozens homes when it hit the outskirts of the small town of Oso on March 22.

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: March 21 — March 28

From President Obama’s first meeting with Pope Francis to the massive mudslide in Washington, to credible evidence in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 and Sochi’s stray dogs arriving in America, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

 

TIME Disaster

Watch: Dramatic Chopper Rescue Video Of 4-Year-Old Boy In Washington Mudslide

A helicopter rescue crew spotted the young child alone, partially sunken in mud. In the footage, rescuers pull the boy, unharmed, into the chopper

Amid the devastation of the deadly mudslide in Washington state that has left at least 24 people dead and dozens more missing, footage showing a four-year-old boy being rescued from the mud and debris over the weekend brought a glimmer of good news.

The boy, Jacob Spillers, was home with his father and three siblings watching TV when the mudslide hit. Members of the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team are seen in the video jumping from the chopper and trying to grab him from a mountain of clay.

The boy was one of the last people being pulled from the mud alive, the Seattle Times reports. Jacob was reunited with his mother, but his other family members are still missing.

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