Oso Mudslide in Washington Kills 24 So Far, Churches Ready to Lend a Hand

( [email protected] ) Mar 26, 2014 02:22 PM EDT
Washington Mudslide
(Photo: (AP)

A devastating mudslide over the weekend close to Seattle Washington killed at least two dozen people and flattened over 50 buildings.

24 people are dead and nearly 180 more people are listed as missing five days after a muddy hillside collapsed into a residential area where it buried dozens of homes, near the town of Oso.

According to the latest from Reuters, Search and rescue operations tapered off overnight but ramped up to full strength again at first light on Wednesday, using dogs to pinpoint possible bodies, and electrical equipment including listening devices and cameras that can probe voids.

Forecasts in the area were for rain on Wednesday, and the previous day crews searching in drizzling rain for survivors had found more bodies. Officials fear the chances of finding more people alive in the mud are getting lower as time goes by.

Local Fire Chief Travis Hots says that his crews are pressing on and not giving up, though.

"We're not backing off. We're still going at this with all eight cylinders to get everyone out there who is unaccounted for," he said.

Washington Mudslide
(Photo: AP)

The Baptist Press reports that Oso Community Chapel is the only church on a 30-mile stretch of State Route 530, near where the disaster occurred.

Blessedly, none of the church's 80 members were injured and none lost their homes, according to pastor Gary Ray, but in the community of 500 along the Stillaguamish River, all of the members have been touched by the tragedy.

"We are the only church on the only road through here," Ray said. "The church is less than two miles from the impact area."

Ray plans to host a community response meeting at the church Wednesday night to determine next how to proceed in the relief and recovery efforts.

"The roads are blocked, the power is out and communication is a challenge. We want to mobilize the church and the community to support the recovery work," Ray said. "We want to be able to do anything we can to help with an eye to long-term community support and rebuilding. This area is highly unchurched."

Oso Landslide in Washington
The March 22 landslide near Oso in Washington State left at least 24 dead and over 180 missing. Washington State Patrol

Many others are ready to help out, but the conditions in the area are hampering efforts, and officials are not ready to let emrgency response teams from churches in the area yet becasue the ground is still unstable.

"it's going to be a very long time before they allow anything like an ERT in that area," Jim Truitt, the United Methodist Volunteers-in-Mission coordinator told the Pacific Northwest Methodist News Blog.

"I have my ERTs on alert, ready to dispatch when we are able and asked," Truitt said.