SEATTLE -- Nearly two weeks after a deadly landslide ravaged the once placid Stillaguamish Valley, the death toll continued to rise, and the hard work of moving on came into sharper focus.
The Snohomish County medical examiner's office said Thursday that it has received the remains of 30 victims from the March 22 slide, which left a square mile of devastation in its wake and closed a key state highway. Of the bodies, 27 have been positively identified.
The major crimes unit of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office also released an updated list Thursday of the 15 men, women and children believed to be missing in connection with the slide.
In addition, Washington state's two senators and the two members of Congress who represent the county called on the Internal Revenue Service to extend the April 15 tax filing deadline for residents of Arlington, Oso and Darrington who have been affected by the slide.
"As you know, a horrific mudslide occurred in Snohomish County, Washington, in the community of Oso on March 22, 2014," the delegation wrote to the IRS. "Approximately 49 residential structures have been impacted by the mudslide, including the destruction of an estimated 37 homes and the severe flooding of 7 homes. In addition, there has been extensive damage in the neighboring communities of Darrington and Arlington."
The legislators noted in their letter that the IRS announced tax relief in 2013 for victims of storms and flooding in Colorado and Illinois -- all federally declared disasters.
On Wednesday, President Obama declared the slide a major disaster, providing federal assistance to individuals, households, businesses, public agencies and certain nonprofit organizations affected by what Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has described as "a historic landslide, the largest in state history."
In his request for assistance, Inslee wrote to Obama, telling him that the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's urban search and rescue team at the landslide site called the emergency response " 'every bit as complex' as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Oklahoma City bombing."
"The trauma of this event," Inslee wrote, "is magnified by the fact that rescuers are often finding only parts of bodies. This not only complicates and delays the identification and family notification process, but also means that the slide area will most likely be the final resting place for many individuals; many of the deceased may never be recovered."
Inslee's office has estimated around $32.1 million in "eligible damage caused by the landslide and flooding." A spokeswoman for the Washington State Military Department said that translates into about $22 million in debris removal that must be done and another $10 million in emergency services offered.
In addition, spokeswoman Karina Shagren said, the state estimates that the slide caused around $10 million in damage to individual households.
Federal assistance could include money for temporary housing, grants for home repair and replacement of belongings not covered by insurance, low-interest loans to help defray home losses not covered by insurance, and unemployment benefits.
But, as state and local officials told survivors of the disaster Wednesday evening after Obama signed the disaster declaration, no one will receive federal assistance without registering with FEMA.
"The county has been through a lot," John Pennington, director of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, said during a Wednesday evening briefing in Arlington. "If you don’t register with FEMA for federal assistance, you don’t get federal assistance."
Those affected can call (800) 621-FEMA or visit www.disasterassistance.gov, Pennington said.
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