PHOTO: Washington Mudslide Devastation Seen From Space

By Denise Chow, Staff Writer
4/2/2014 9:44:05 AM

New satellite photos reveal the astonishing damage from a deadly landslide that swept through the small town of Oso, Wash., earlier this month.

The new images, captured yesterday but released today (April 1) by DigitalGlobe, show the devastation caused by the 1-square-mile (2.5 square kilometers) landslide that struck northwest Washington state on March 22. The massive mudslide's trail of destruction is starkly apparent when compared with older photos of the region - also released today by DigitalGlobe - originally taken on July 13, 2013.

Before-and-after satellite images of the small community of Oso, Wash., which was devastated by a landslide on March 22, 2014. The photo on the left was captured on July 13, 2013, and the photo on the right was snapped on March 31, 2014. Credit: DigitalGlobe

The landslide occurred when an unstable, waterlogged hillside collapsed on the bank of the Stillaguamish River, which is located approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of Seattle. [See Before and After Photos of the Landslide's Destruction]

The latest estimate from the Snohomish County medical examiner puts the confirmed death toll from the mudslide at 27 people, but the death toll has continued to rise as investigators conduct ongoing search operations. Officials have identified the remains of 19 of the 27 confirmed victims, and have concluded that all were killed by multiple blunt-force injuries, reported the LA Times.

Some 500 rescue workers are still combing the area for human remains, which, in some cases, involves searching amongst debris piled 60 to 75 feet (18 to 23 meters) high, according to the LA Times. Despite these intense search efforts, 22 people remain missing since the disaster.

Workers are also trying to reduce flooding in the area by pumping out standing water and by removing wreckage that could block the flow of the Stillaguamish River.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the federal government to declare the Snohomish County mudslide a "major disaster," which would provide assistance to landslide victims and their families.

"This disaster is quickly becoming one of the worst in state history," Inslee wrote in his letter of request to Ken Murphy, the regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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