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Washington governor asks President Obama to declare mudslide 'major disaster'

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has asked President Obama for a major disaster declaration for the mudslide that buried a rural community.

By Frances Burns
A military search and rescue helicopter hovers over the debris field on on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. Over 200 search and rescue personnel continue to search for survivors or bodies in the aftermath of Saturday's mudslide that buried the town of Oso, about 12 miles west of Darrington. As of Thursday, there are 25 dead and 90 missing. UPI/Ted Warren/Pool | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7c33190ef2de79fc59ea1fd235bb5cb4/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A military search and rescue helicopter hovers over the debris field on on March 27, 2014 in Oso, Washington. Over 200 search and rescue personnel continue to search for survivors or bodies in the aftermath of Saturday's mudslide that buried the town of Oso, about 12 miles west of Darrington. As of Thursday, there are 25 dead and 90 missing. UPI/Ted Warren/Pool | License Photo

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has asked President Obama for a "major disaster" declaration for the mudslide that buried a rural community.

In a letter Monday to the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Inslee detailed the destruction caused by the wall of mud that buried a square mile on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, near the village of Oso. He said the mudslide caused at least $10 million in lost buildings and personal property.

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A major disaster declaration is required for individual victims to apply for aid. Inslee said the total included funeral expenses for up to 48 people.

President Obama has already authorized aid for search and rescue operations.

RELATED 24 confirmed dead, 22 missing in Washington mudslide

Officials said late Monday that at least 24 people had been confirmed dead and 22 remained unaccounted for. Only two natural disasters in state history have had higher death tolls: a 1910 avalanche that hit two trains stalled in Stevens Pass in the Cascades, killing 96; and the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which killed 57.

The crews searching the area for victims are finding more human remains. But officials said the process of confirming deaths is slow because many of the bodies are in pieces.

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Inslee said the slide destroyed 25 houses used as primary residences, and did so much damage to five more they are uninhabitable. Another 14 buildings -- 12 weekend or vacation homes and two outbuildings -- were damaged.

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The slide blocked the Stillaguamish River and a highway, covering the area in mud as much as 40 feet deep. Inslee said some of those buried by the slide may never be found.

[The Seattle Times]

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