Obama surveys scene of sadness, death at mudslide

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Obama surveys scene of sadness, death at mudslide
Marine One helicopter, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of Oso, Wash., Tuesday, April 22, 2014, above the site of the deadly mudslide that struck the community in March. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Marine One, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of Oso, Wash., Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the site of the deadly mudslide that struck the community in March. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)
President Barack Obama walks from the Marine One helicopter with Col. Preston Williamson, vice commander, 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.,to board of Air Force One, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md, en route to Oso, Wash., the site of the deadly mudslide that struck the community. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md, en route to Oso, Wash., the site of the deadly mudslide that struck the community. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Brande Taylor, left, and her partner Matt Ingison wave flags and take photos as President Barack Obama's motorcade drives past Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Oso, Wash. Obama was visiting the area about an hour northeast of Seattle to survey damage from a recent mudslide nearby that killed more than three dozen people. The deadly March 22 mudslide killed at least 41 people and buried dozens of homes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A flag sticks out of a hole in a demolished home near where a deadly mudslide from the hill behind that happened several days earlier ended, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Arlington, Wash. At least 14 people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle on Saturday. Several people also were critically injured, and homes were destroyed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The remains of a house and of a boat lie with other debris following a deadly mudslide, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Oso, Wash. At least 14 people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle on Saturday. Several people also were critically injured, and homes were destroyed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Teresa Welter cries as she holds a candle Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at a candlelight vigil in Arlington, Wash., for the victims of a massive mudslide that struck the nearby community of Oso, Wash., on Saturday, killing at least 16 people and leaving dozens missing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
ARLINGTON, WA - MARCH 25: Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots speaks to the media during a news conference on March 25, 2014 in Arlington, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 in nearby Oso, Washington killed at least sixteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Crews work on Washington State Route 530 to clear debris from a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left scores missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Crews work on Washington State Route 530 to clear debris from a mudslide on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left scores missing. (Photo by Ted S. Warren-Pool/Getty Images)
Volunteers with chainsaws march down a rugged path toward the scene of a deadly mudslide that hit Saturday, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Arlington, Wash. At least 14 people were killed in the 1-square-mile slide that hit in a rural area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Several people also were critically injured, and homes were destroyed. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
OSO, WA - MARCH 25: Elaine Young holds a Bible and photographs found in the debris of a mudslide near her home on March 25, 2014 in Oso, Washington. A massive mudslide on March 22 has killed at least fourteen and left many missing. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
OSA, WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 25, 2010: This is DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of the Osa, Washington MUDSLIDE area before the March 2014 tragedy. Imagery collected on July 25, 2010. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 23: In this handout from Washington State Dept of Transportation, an aerial view of a breach where water from the Stillaguamish River begins to move through the dam created March 23, 2014 between Darrington and Arlington, Washington. Eight people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide leveled homes and blocked a river and a road. (Photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation via Getty Images)
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 23: In this handout from Washington State Dept of Transportation, an aerial view of the hill that originated the mudslide March 23, 2014 between Darrington and Arlington, Washington. Eight people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide leveled homes and blocked a river and a road. (Photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation via Getty Images)
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 23: In this handout from Washington State Dept of Transportation, an aerial view of a breach where water from the Stillaguamish River begins to move through the dam created March 23, 2014 between Darrington and Arlington, Washington. Eight people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide leveled homes and blocked a river and a road. (Photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation via Getty Images)
DARRINGTON, WA - MARCH 23: Larry Taylor prepares to spend the night at a temporary Red Cross shelter at the Darrington Community Center in Darrington, Washington on Sunday, March 23, 2014. A massive mudslide in Oso, Washington killed at least eight and left many missing, while also blocking the waters of the Stillaguamish River and flooding Taylor's home. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
DARRINGTON, WA - MARCH 23: Kristopher Langton shares a moment with his son, Kristian Langton (5 months), at a temporary Red Cross shelter at the Darrington Community Center in Darrington, Washington on Sunday, March 23, 2014. A massive mudslide in Oso, Washington killed at least eight and left many missing, and Kristopher Langton was one of the first to arrive and offer aid. Against the wishes of authorities, Langton says he traveled more than a mile across the entire mudslide, wading through debris and mud that resembled quicksand to help rescue four adults and an infant. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, WA - MARCH 23: (NO SALES) A house sits destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37 on March 23, 2014 near Arlington, Washington. Four people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide in Oso, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times-Pool/Getty Images)
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 22: In this handout from Washington State Dept of Transportation, an aerial view of the hill that originated the mudslide, the Stillaguamish River and SR 530 March 22, 2014 between Darrington and Arlington, Washington. Eight people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide leveled homes and blocked a river and a road. (Photo by Washington State Dept of Transportation via Getty Images)
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WASHINGTON - MARCH 22: In this handout from the Washington State Patrol, people stand near a debris from a house that was hit by a mudslide on Highway 530 March 22, 2014 in Snohomish County, Washington. According to reports, 18 people are still missing after a mudslide killed three and injured another eight. The mudslide is said to measure a square mile and 15 feet deep in places. (Photo by Washington State Patrol via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, WA - MARCH 23: (NO SALES) A house sits destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37 on March 23, 2014 near Arlington, Washington. Four people have been confirmed dead and at least 18 others are still missing after a massive mudslide in Oso, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times-Pool/Getty Images)
The orange X on a house, destroyed in the mud, indicates it has been searched for people on Highway 530, Sunday, March 23, 2014 the day after a giant landslide occurred near Oso, Wash. Rescue crews searched into the night for survivors from a massive mudslide that killed at least three people, after hearing voices from the debris field pleading for help. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)
Map locates mudslide in Snohomish County, Wash.
Snohomish County Sheriff officers monitor the scene a short ways up the road from the mudslide at mile 37 on Highway 530 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near mile marker 37 near Oso, Washington. At least six homes have been washed away, with three people reported dead so far and at least eighteen missing. The nearby Stillaguamish River has been dammed up by 15-20 feet of debris as a result, creating more flooding concerns, as reported by KING 5 via the state hydrologist. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)
A house is seen destroyed in the mud on Highway 530 next to mile marker 37 on Sunday, March 23, 2014, the day after a giant landslide occurred near mile marker 37 near Oso, Washington. At least six homes have been washed away, with three people reported dead so far and at least eighteen missing. The nearby Stillaguamish River has been dammed up by 15-20 feet of debris as a result, creating more flooding concerns, as reported by KING 5 via the state hydrologist. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Lindsey Wasson, Pool)
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OSO, Wash. (AP) - Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month and steeled himself to mourn with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

Evidence of the mudslide's power was everywhere: trees ripped from the ground, a highway paved with mud and debris, a river's course altered. And in the midst of the awful tableau, an American flag flying at half-staff.

Even as the president flew overhead, the search for bodies continued below. Two people were still listed as missing.

Back on the ground, the president headed for the firehouse in the small town of Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle, to comfort those who grieve and meet with those helping in the recovery effort. A sign outside a business along the way read "Oso strong." Scattered crowds lined the route to watch the presidential motorcade pass by on a clear, sunny afternoon.

The March 22 mudslide killed at least 41 people and buried dozens of homes.

Brande Taylor, whose boyfriend was a volunteer working on the mudslide debris field, was appreciative that the president made the effort to visit this rural outpost.

"It is a small community. It's little. It's not huge on the map. But there's still people here who need help, that need the support," said Taylor, who stood near the firehouse. "And they need to know the president is here to support and to help them rebuild their lives."

Kellie Perkins, who lives in Oso, said Obama's visit would help families who have lost so much begin to heal.

"They don't now have houses any more, they don't have anything they own, their friends or relatives are dead," she said. "I think they need this."

The president repeatedly has stepped into the role of national consoler in times of mourning. Just two weeks ago, he met with families and comrades of those killed in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas. Three soldiers died and 16 others were wounded in the rampage by another soldier, who killed himself.

At the request of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama earlier this month declared that a major disaster had occurred in the state, making it and affected residents eligible for various forms of financial aid, including help covering the costs of temporary housing, home repairs and the loss of uninsured property. The Homeland Security Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers also are helping.

Obama recently asked the nation to send its thoughts and prayers to the state and to Oso.

"We know that part of this tightknit community has been lost," Obama said last month while attending a European summit just days after the tragedy struck. "We hope for the best, but we recognize this is a tough situation."

Obama has been called on to mourn with the grieving after carnage in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Boston, the Washington Navy Yard - and twice after shootings at Fort Hood.

Tuesday's stop in Washington came as Obama headed for Tokyo, the first stop on a four-country visit to the Asia-Pacific region. The president is scheduled to spend the rest of this week and part of next week conferring with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
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