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Oso Landslide Death Toll Could Eclipse 1910 Avalanche

The Oso landslide may go down in history as the deadliest natural disaster in Washington.

On March 1, 1910 an avalanche near Stevens Pass wiped out two snowbound trains killing 96 people. It was Washington’s worst natural disaster in terms of loss of life.

But that could soon change. The death toll from the Oso landslide could exceed 100. That’s based on the number of fatalities so far combined with the number of people believed missing.

Governor Inslee acknowledged as much in a short meeting with reporters at the Capitol.

“We do know this could end up being the largest mass loss of Washingtonians.”

But Inslee quickly added, “Whether it is or is not it does not change on how we’re approaching this which is that we have a full scale rescue effort underway, we’re looking for miracles to occur and we have a community that’s really pulling together.”

The Oso landslide has also been compared to the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens -- both in terms of the devastation and the loss of life. Fifty-seven people died in that disaster.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has requested an expanded emergency declaration from the federal government.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."