President Obama meets with community, surveys Oso mudslide
President Barack Obama spent Tuesday afternoon surveying the damage left behind the massive mudslide in Oso that killed 41 people.
He flew over the debris field with senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Governor Jay Inslee, and then traveled from Arlington to Oso by motorcade.
After meeting with first responders and family members who’ve experienced immense loss, the president spoke to a crowd at the Oso Firehouse.
“The country is thinking about all of you. It has been throughout this tragedy and we’re not going anywhere,” Obama said. “Very few Americans had heard of Oso before the disaster struck. We’ve all been inspired by the incredible way the community has come together.”
Obama said the strength of the community should inspire all Americans. Besides thanking the strangers who donated time and supplies and the volunteers working on the debris field and feeding first responders, the president acknowledged some lessons that were learned along the way.
“Almost uniquely, we had coordination not just between state, local, and federal officials, but also coordination between volunteers and those officials,” said Obama. “I know it required some improvisation and some kinks getting worked out, but it was important for the family members themselves and the community members themselves to be hands on and participate in this process.”
President Obama finished by recognizing the character of the people of Oso and said he and Michelle are grieving alongside them.
Obama is departed from Paine Field in Everett around 5 p.m.
The Snohomish County medical examiner’s office has identified all 41 victims. Two names remain on a list of missing people.
Crews continue to dig through the wreckage in a search for bodies, focusing on a small area where the final two victims are believed to be buried. It’s likely the latest victims were found in the east end of the slide, nearest Darrington, where the search is focused right now.
All survivors taken to Harborview Medical Center on March 22 have been discharged. The hospital said a 38-year-old male was discharged Saturday in satisfactory condition.
At the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama earlier this month declared that a major disaster had occurred in the state, making it and affected residents eligible for various forms of financial aid, including help covering the costs of temporary housing, home repairs and the loss of uninsured property. The Homeland Security Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are also helping.
Obama said state officials have been relentless in getting the resources Oso and Darrington need.
“From the day of the tragedy I’ve instructed my team to make sure that they get what they need,” said Obama.
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced an emergency grant of over $2.8 million to help with cleanup and recovery efforts. The funds will be used to create temporary jobs to assist with the recovery efforts, with over $955,000 available initially.
After the Oso visit, Obama headed to the Asia-Pacific region where he is scheduled to spend the rest of this week and part of next week meeting with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.