As of today, the death toll from the landslide in Oso, Washington, has reached 35, with 11 people still missing. The most recent body to be identified, as of this writing, was a two-year-old child, Brooke Spillers.
Since a nearby hillside collapsed on March 22, covering an entire square mile of land and destroying about 50 homes, the news media has reported the efforts of workers to recover the dead. President Obama has announced that he will visit the site later this month.
Dogs have been on both sides of that equation, as rescuers as well as victims. Trained dogs have been scouring the area to the point of exhaustion. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has assembled a team of 20 dogs from around the country to search for human remains. This is an unusual duty for FEMA’s dogs, which are usually used for search and rescue operations. However, two and a half weeks after the mountain collapsed, there is little hope of finding survivors in the muck and debris.
Sally Dickinson of FEMA says the dogs have been a success amongst all the tragedy, even though this isn’t what they’ve been trained for.
“We’ve proved throughout this event that they are being successful, that they are doing their job and that they are capable of working in this environment that we had no preparation for,” she told KIRO television news.
On Sunday, Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Reitmann told Q13Fox that the dog teams were taking a two-day break from the search: “Conditions on the slide field are difficult, and so this is just a time to take care of the dogs. In addition, after a long time on a scene, dogs can lose their sensing ability, so taking that break is important.”
On the other side, many people are still hoping to find their animal companions alive, as well as their human families. Dogs and other pets were also killed or displaced in the landslide, and organizations have swept into action to help. A Facebook page called Lost Pets of Shohomish Mudslide has been created for people to find or remember their missing pets.
Also on Facebook, the Everett Animal Shelter is keeping a list of pets that have been reported lost or identified as being alive or dead. Everett, as well as the North Creek Pet Hospital, has also been one of the key points for shelter and recovery of pets displaced by the landslide; a PayPal link has been set up for those who want to contribute directly to the care of animals waiting to be claimed by their owners or rehomed in the wake of the disaster.
Trupanion, a pet insurance company based in Seattle, is raising funds for Everett and North Creek using social media. In a press release, Trupanion said:
We are asking pet owners to post a story or photo of their rescued pet to our social channels, and for each one received by next Friday, we will donate $1 to the North Creek Pet Hospital, who is working to provide healthcare for the pets caught in the mudslide, and Everett Animal Shelter who is sheltering, caring and treating these animals. People can make additional donations on their own here also: http://www.everettarf.org/.
We’re asking for everyone to show their support by sharing their photo or story with us (via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email firstname.lastname@example.org) then share our posts to spread the word even further.
To all who have lost homes or loved ones in the area, our best thoughts go out to you. We hope that people will take advantage of all these resources.
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