By Seattle Times staff reporter Kyung M. Song
WASHINGTON — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday asked the federal government to declare the Snohomish County mudslide a “major disaster,” which would qualify victims for direct federal aid for housing, unemployment and other losses.
Inslee’s request to President Obama comes nine days after the devastation that has killed at least 24 people and as many as 30 more missing.
In his request letter, Inslee described the disaster’s horrific damage, from which only 15 people were rescued alive. Rescuers are often finding only partial remains, Inslee said, and some victims likely will remain buried in the mountain of mud.
“This disaster is quickly becoming one of the worst in state history” in terms of fatalities and destruction to a community, Inslee wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Ken Murphy, regional administrator in Bothell for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Obama has already approved an expanded emergency declaration, allowing for federal help and reimbursement with rescue operations. But only a declaration of major disaster would make direct federal aid available for affected families.
Such designation is granted in cases where a disaster is severe enough to overwhelm the abilities of state and local authorities.
Inslee said the 25 homes destroyed in the mudslide were worth about $165,000 each. Many homeowners did not have mortgage insurance, meaning they’re liable for paying off homes that no longer exist. Inslee estimated the total loss at nearly $10 million, including $3.4 million for lost personal property.
Major disaster aid can include up to 18 months of temporary housing, unemployment benefits and grants to cover home repairs, medical, dental and funeral expenses.