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NASA spots Washington mudslide from space

Satellite shots from the Earth Observatory show the stunning scope of the mudslide that claimed lives and homes in the remote town of Oso, Wash.

NASA took this photo of Oso, Wash., on March 23. NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen

A tragic and massive landslide in rural Washington state this week cut off the tiny town of Oso while also claiming lives and property. But while residents and emergency responders struggle in the wake of the mile-wide mudslide on a remote bend of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, NASA has been able to capture a view of the whole scene from space.

Rainfall is likely to have triggered the wall of muddy debris that was sent downhill and across the river on March 22, killing at least 14 people, with 176 still missing as of Tuesday. The slide also dammed the river, forming a barrier lake, which is shown in the above image from Landsat 8 taken a day later.

Have a look at another image of the same area taken on January 18 for comparison:

Oso before the landslide in January. NASA Earth Observatory

Concerns remain that water backing up from the earthen dam could lead to flash flooding. The landslide here isn't the first. Geologist Dave Petley of Durham University says it is actually a "reactivation" of an earlier landslide in 2006.