Washington landslide: Obama visits mourning community on grim milestone

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(CNN) — President Barack Obama will visit Washington state Tuesday to mark the grim one-month anniversary since a devastating mudslide killed dozens.

The death toll from the landslide on the outskirts of the town of Oso has risen to 41, authorities said Monday.

Obama will tour the area and meet with rescue crews and victims’ relatives.

The rain-saturated hillside along the Stillaguamish River gave way on March 22, unleashing walls of mud that swallowed up roads and homes outside Oso.

Crews have dug through mud, logs and debris 70 feet thick in some places to search for the missing.

The debris field is full of toxic sludge, including human waste and toxic chemicals from households, oil and gas, according to Lt. Richard Burke of the Bellevue Fire Department. During the rescue efforts, some workers have come down with dysentery.

The work seems never-ending, and the piles of debris and muck remain high a month after the mudslide.

But thanks to workers’ efforts, water that was 6 feet deep has now drained, allowing further access to equipment.

One spruce tree that remained standing after the mudslide is now a memorial to the victims and a source of strength to the workers.

Obama will visit the community before he embarks on a four-country tour to Asia to convince Pacific allies the United States remains focused on them.

His trip will include Malaysia and South Korea, which are dealing with major transportation disasters. Both the sinking of a ferry full of high schoolers in South Korea and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have occupied those countries’ leaders in recent weeks.

He will also visit Japan and the Philippines.

By Faith Karimi

CNN’s Ana Cabrera contributed to this report.

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