The NASA Earth Observatory’s Landsat 8 Operational Earth Imager has captured some startling images of the devastation left in the wake of the recent landslide that took place just outside the tiny former fishing villages of Oso and Darrington, Washington. The photos show both before and after views of the site of the landslide now covered in mud, as well as the barrier lake that was created in the aftermath of the disaster as an earthen dam was left behind trapping water behind it.
The landslide was triggered by extreme rainfall at around 11 a.m. local time on March 22, leaving at least 24 dead, 8 of whom remain unidentifed at this time, many injured, some critically, and at least 176 missing. According to recent reports, no more survivors have been pulled from the disaster site in the past four days. While some have given in to despair, other friends and relatives of the missing have not yet given up hope. Many in the area just north of Seattle, Washington continue to believe that their loved ones have survived and are simply trapped in their homes or vehicles and unable to reach them or return home at this time.
Recovery efforts are expected to be ongoing for some time and currently involve thousands of workers traversing the debris-strewn land in addition to helicopters observing from overhead. The landslide affected a large area of approximately one square mile, leaving a lot of ground to cover. Many Washington homes are buried in mud 30 to 40 feet deep that has the consistency of quicksand in places, making the work of rescue workers precarious at times. The affected area has been declared a state of emergency and remains under the threat of flash flood warnings at this time.
The images of the startling devastation left behind following the Washington landslide are not the first captured by NASA to show the aftermath of natural disasters. The Earth Observatory’s team of satellites have provided many big-picture views of natural disaster sites over the years. Last fall, its Aqua satellite provided remarkable views of the super-typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines resulting in mass casualties and a recovery effort that still continues today.
Last summer NASA satellites also captured images of the Rim Fire that took place in California near the border of Yosemite National Park. The fire destroyed more than 100,000 acres and threatened more than 2,500 homes. Texas wildfires were also observed and images archived in 2011 following a severe drought. The devastation caused last May by the Moore, Oklahoma tornado that took 24 lives, injured hundreds and left many homeless was also captured by NASA.
In addition to the images of the devastation following the Washington landslide, images captured and released to the public by the Earth Observatory’s satellites most recently include some taken just days ago that show forest fires raging in India, wildfires in Southeast Asia, dust storms developing over Texas and Colorado and the path of Tropical Cyclone Gillian, a powerful storm that worked its way across the southern part of the Indian Ocean this week, but did not result in any threats to land.
By Michele Wessel