Obama Vows Support for Washington State Mudslide VictimsPhil Mattingly
U.S. President Barack Obama toured the the tiny town of Oso, Washington, marking the one month anniversary of the day a wall of mud and dirt let loose from nearby hillside killed at least 41 people.
“To see the strength in adversity of this community, I think, should inspire all of us,” Obama told emergency workers gathered today at the fire house in the town of less than 200 people located 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Seattle.
He said state and local officials have been “relentless” in making sure the town got what it needed for rescue and recovery and vowed that that the federal government is “not going anywhere. We’ll be here as long as it takes.”
Dozens of homes and businesses on the outskirts of the town were buried by the March 22 mudslide, which covered approximately one square mile with mud and debris, according to the office of Governor Jay Inslee. Obama made the stop in Washington on his way to Tokyo, the starting point for a four-nation trip to the Asia-Pacific region during the next week.
Obama took an aerial tour of the wreckage by helicopter, then traveled Oso to meet with first responders and families of the victims. Two people are still missing, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office.
“There’s still families who are searching for loved ones,” Obama said of the continuing recovery efforts. “There are families who have lost everything.”
Obama earlier this month signed a disaster declaration for the state, clearing the way for local residents to get aid, such as grants for temporary house and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.
“The administration remains focused on supporting the state and local efforts, and first responders,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president.