On Saturday, March 22, a mudslide destroyed an area east of Arlington, a town in Washington, killed a total of 30, and left 90 missing and counting.
A total of 180 residents were reported to live in the path of the landslide. Three deaths were reported and six homes were destroyed during the first 24 hours. The power, speed and intensity of the mudslide was immense. Part of the slide swept over a 360-yard area of the road with mud and debris up to 20 feet deep.
Snohomish County was saturated with rain this month, which led to unstable terrain causing the mudslide. The area was already prone to slides in the past so it was only a matter of time.
According to Seattle Times, Paulo de Oliveira of Lynnwood, who was on the passing, through the highway, states, “In three seconds, everything got washed away. Darkness covering the whole roadway and one house right in the middle of the street.” De Oliveira said he was about 50 feet from getting swept by the slide.
Help was sent out in response to the disaster. Over 100 rescuers helped search through the destroyed houses in search for missing bodies. They were aided by two hovercrafts to help with the rescue.
Bob Michajla, 66, a volunteer rescuer, told Reuters, “The number is so big and it’s so negative. It’s hard to grasp. These are all friends and neighbors and family. Everybody knows everybody in this valley.”
The rescuers kept searching through harsh conditions caused by heavy rain, making the quicksand grow worse. The conditions made the progress slow and proved a challenge for the rescuers.
According to Reuters, Snohomish County Executive Director Gary Haakenson told a Friday evening news conference, “We always want to hold out hope, but I think we have to at some point expect the worst,”
The Red Cross was also there to help. Red Cross officials helped set up shelter in the school in Arlington for the victims. Andy Hamack, Red Cross disaster-relief coordinator, said that the best thing people of the community could do is donate money.
The mudslide wasn’t the only concern. It had sent a ton of debris into the Stillaguamish River, causing build up. Due to the build up, flooding was a concern. John Pennington, emergency-management director for Snohomish County, was concerned about the chance of a severe flood.
“The threat of a flood was building throughout the evening, with water behind the blockage rising 10 to 12 inches every half-hour,” he said.
Residents near the slide were asked to evacuate in fear of the slide continuing to reach more area. One resident said, “We are asking residents to prepare their homes, pets, livestock, etc., for immediate evacuation if and when it becomes necessary.”
Rescuers are still continuing search and are finding personal belongings of the victims among the debris. The number of deaths and people found missing are not official as more victims continue to be pulled from the debris.
Officials expect the number of missing people to decrease from 90. They are working to find more victims and cross-reference lists that contain partial reports and duplicates. The event is still not over and things still are grim.
Families are still waiting to hear news from their loved ones. Many community members have taken to social media sites to mourn and share about their presumed loss. A memorial page is now set up in hopes to answer pleas of information, offer support, prayers and ways of offering help.
On Friday at a community meeting, John Farmer, 52, suggested that the damaged site should be built into a park for a place of remembrance of the victims lost, instead of rebuilt. Weller Funeral Home in Arlington is making funeral preparations for those lost in the tragedy.
Article By: Kyreem Powers