EVERETT, Wash. — President Barack Obama braced to share sorrows once again as he visited Washington state Tuesday to meet with victims of the mudslide that killed more than three dozen people.
With the search for bodies still ongoing, Obama also planned to survey damage from the March 22 disaster by helicopter and meet with emergency responders and recovery workers.
The president came to Washington on his way to Tokyo, the first stop on a four-country visit to the Asia-Pacific region.
The massive mudslide in the small town of Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle, killed at least 41 people and buried dozens of homes.
The Snohomish County medical examiner's office has identified 41 victims. Two names remain on a list of missing people.
Just two weeks ago, Obama was in Texas to mourn with families and comrades of those killed in a shooting spree at Fort Hood. Three soldiers died and 16 others were wounded in the rampage by another soldier, who killed himself.
In Oso, crews digging through the wreckage for bodies are focusing on a small area where the final two victims are believed to be buried.
At the request of 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 tight-knit 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."
As president, Obama repeatedly has stepped into the role of national consoler in times of grief and mourning: After carnage in Tucson, Ariz. Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Boston, the Washington Navy Yard — and twice after shootings at Fort Hood.
After the Oso visit, Obama continues on to the Asia-Pacific region, where he 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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