“We have people who are yelling for our help … We suspect that people are out there, but it’s far too dangerous to get responders out there on that mudflow.” So said Travis Hots, Chief of the Snohomish County Fire District, in a news briefing about the “massive mudslide in rural northwest Washington State.”
The rescuers who’d lined-up behind Hots for a photo-op nodded vigorously as their chief described the dangers to themselves, dangers that might preclude them from heeding the cries for help of the residents still buried beneath a “135 feet wide and 180 feet deep landslide, near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle.”
This is not to say that “local rescue units, plus units of the Washington State Patrol and US Army Corps of Engineers” are not trying. But they’re probably not trying as hard as they would had they been in the employ of a private rescue company.
In the case that residents or neighborhood associations had contracted with a private rescue company, company employees unwilling to risk their lives to save their clients would soon be out of a job. If residents felt they’d been failed by Rescue Inc., they’d seek out a new contractor, staffed with daredevils (like retired special-forces soldiers) who’d do anything to save their charges, while being paid handsomely for doing what they love doing and what they do so well.
“Rescue me. Not now”: That’s the reply these poor mudslide victims are getting from their government. They’ll perish before it’s “sufficiently safe” for a state-employed rescuer to risk his neck for another.
The incentives for a state-employed rescuer to risk his life for others are simply not there. Failure is not punished; its costs socialized. Should the country be sued by relatives, the taxpayer will shoulder the financial settlement, and not the likely extra-cautious rescuers.
UPDATE (3/24): More devastating news. The bold text below goes to the point of the blog post. Isn’t the idea of rescue to send in individuals who are prepared to save people in unsafe circumstances?
“Crews were able to get to the muddy, tree-strewn area after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said Sunday evening.”
“108 people may be missing in Washington state mudslide”:
Authorities are searching for more bodies after a massive mudslide in a rural part of Washington state killed at least eight and possibly left more than 100 missing, while crews battle uneven ground and rising waters.
A 1-square-mile mudslide struck Saturday morning in Snohomish County, critically injuring several people and destroying about 30 several homes. Eight bodies have been pulled from the scene and authorities described the search for additional survivors to be “grim.”
John Pennington, emergency response managing director, said there are reports of up to 108 people missing in the mudslide but noted that number is unconfirmed.
“This is a large scale disaster event,” Pennington said. “We have 108 individual names, or likeness … It’s a soft 108.”
“It was Saturday and probably a higher number than what you would see on a week day,” he said of the victims during a press conference Monday. Pennington said it remains unclear how many structures were impacted at the time.