By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times
SEATTLE — One month after the Washington state landslide that killed at least 34, President Barack Obama is planning to survey the destruction firsthand.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that Obama will travel on April 22 to the site of the mammoth slide that closed State Route 530 and destroyed dozens of homes, prompting a major disaster declaration from the White House.
The president is scheduled to meet with families of the dead and missing, first responders and recovery workers, Inslee said.
“From the earliest days following the slide, the president has closely monitored events in the area and shown his concerns for the victims and their families,” Inslee said in a written statement announcing the visit. “He and his team have been important partners in the response effort, and I believe this visit will strengthen those ties as we face the tough work ahead.”
The death toll from the March 22 landslide continues to rise. On Tuesday, the Snohomish County medical examiner’s office said it had received a total of 34 victims, up from 33 a day earlier, and has positively identified 30 of them.
Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats, expressed gratitude Tuesday for the president’s upcoming visit — and for the federal government’s support in the form of disaster assistance and an extension of the April 15 tax filing deadline for those affected by the slide.
“We are confident that President Obama will see what we have seen,” the senators wrote in a joint statement, “the tremendous resolve and determination of the people of Oso, Darrington and Arlington in the face of tragedy.”
Among the difficult issues facing Snohomish County and the small towns along the Stillaguamish River is whether it will be possible to rebuild the demolished town of Oso, which had a population of about 200 when the hillside came crashing down on it 2 weeks ago.
There are also questions surrounding how much longer searchers will continue to look for the remains of the 12 people still missing, who range in age from 2-year-old Brooke Spillers to 91-year-old Bonnie J. Gullikson, both of Arlington.
Photo via Marcus Yam/Seattle Times/MCT