Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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Home Global Activities America Care and Relief for Landslide Survivors in Snohomish County

Care and Relief for Landslide Survivors in Snohomish County

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On March 22, 2014, at 10:37 am, a devastating landslide occurred four miles east of Oso, Washington, engulfing a small community within seconds. The gigantic landslide covered nearly one square mile of the rural neighborhood, and destroyed homes and roads in its path. As of April 25, 2014, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed 41 fatalities from the landslide, with two more people remaining missing. After the landslide, families were housed in temporary shelters in Arlington and Darrington.

Upon hearing about the landslide, Tzu Chi volunteers in Seattle immediately contacted the Red Cross, and met the Red Cross personnel at the shelter in Darrington to express their concern and readiness with assistance, but were informed that for the moment, the Red Cross had ample supplies for the affected residents. As the situation for directly and indirectly affected residents was clarified, the Tzu Chi volunteers were invited to participate in “one-stop” relief aid events on April 11-12, and again on April 18-19.

Warming hearts without heaters

On April 11, the Seattle Tzu Chi volunteers headed to the relief stations at Darrington and Arlington with blankets, copies of Jing Si Aphorisms, bamboo banks, and cash cards of varying amounts: $500 for families with destroyed homes, $300 for those whose homes were less seriously damaged, and $100 for those indirectly affected. Although the distribution point at Darrington did not have any indoor heating, the hearts of the recipients were warmed by the love and care of the volunteers.

One of the recipients was Tarya, who had lived at the disaster site for 30 years. Despite severe damage to her home, Tarya had decided to stay and rebuild her life. The timely support from Tzu Chi filled her with gratefulness, and she told the volunteers that she would make sure others affected by the disaster would also come to receive their support.

Another recipient not only saw his home completely destroyed by the landslide, but it also took the lives of his wife and granddaughter. As he sat down with the Tzu Chi volunteers, upon reading the first line of a Jing Si Aphorism, he could not hold back his tears. The volunteers stood by him, listening to him telling them about his loss, and comforting him for a long time.

A daily detour of 120 miles

Apart from the direct damage by the landslide in Snohomish County, the slide also blocked the Stillaguamish River. Due to this, flooding upstream has forced an indefinite closing of State Route 530, requiring commuters from Darrington to loop around the mountain, driving an additional 120 miles to work. The additional fuel expense has caused significant stress on the economy of many residents, so the Red Cross asked the Tzu Chi volunteers if they could give aid also to these indirect victims of the landslide. The Tzu Chi volunteers decided to offer $100 relief cash cards to residents in particular difficulty.

At the distribution in Arlington, Washington State Governor Jay Robert Inslee came to the Tzu Chi booth to thank the volunteers for their timely relief to the affected residents. Volunteer Curtis Hsing took the opportunity to explain to the governor how the blankets Tzu Chi use to give warmth to disaster survivors are made from recycled bottles.

A survivor’s story

Elaine’s home was only yards from the landslide; she was at home vacuuming when she heard a loud, thunderous noise. Rushing out, Elaine and her husband saw their yard covered by mud and rocks, and the small creek close by the house overflowing, water flowing into their basement. In the backyard, they discovered a neighbor buried in the earth and mud. They quickly dug her out and saved her life. When speaking with the Tzu Chi volunteers, Elaine had difficulty finding words to describe the extent and ferocity of the disaster that had befallen the small community.

During the four days of distributions, the Tzu Chi volunteers distributed over $30,000 in emergency cash relief and eco-blankets to a total of 204 families; the volunteers hope that their efforts will be an encouragement to those affected to quickly rebuild their lives, and that they will soon be able both to calm their hearts and settle in new or rebuilt homes.

Written by: Yinhsu Liu and Johan Alwall