Death toll rises in wake of mudslides

13 January, 2018, 13:34 | Author: Wade Massey

"We have an unknown amount of missing people", said McElroy, who as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday said at least 13 people had died in the mudslides.

Emergency workers using search dogs and helicopters rescued dozens of people stranded in mud-coated rubble in the area about 110 miles north of Los Angeles.

Parts of U.S. Highway 101 were shut down and could remain closed until Monday, officials said.

Oprah Winfrey's home was among the many damaged by the Southern California flash floods and mudslides that resulted in at least a dozen fatalities.

This follows last month's wildfires in Southern California, which were intensified by the Santa Ana winds. Firefighters slogged through deep mud to pull 14-year-old Lauren Cantin, covered in mud and taken away on a stretcher, from the rubble.

"It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere, with huge boulders, rocks, down trees, power lines, wrecked cars - lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

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Emergency cellphone alerts warning residents about the mudslides were not sent out by Santa Barbara County officials until after the flooding had already begun, officials noted Wednesday.

It could include everything from urgent, active missing-persons cases being worked by detectives to calls received from acquaintances saying they hadn't been able to reach someone they believe was in Montecito on Tuesday morning when mudslides swept through town and killed 17 people.

The December wildfires not only scorched away grass, shrubs and other vegetation that hold soil in place, but they also baked a waxy layer into the Earth that prevented the rains from being absorbed into the ground, Reuters explained.

MR COLIN FUNK, who fled with his family as thigh-high mud approached their house.

"There's no way that we should have found that child, and probably 15 more minutes, it wouldn't have been alive because it was cold and it had been there for a while", he added.

"Inside the debris we're finding bodies", he said. "Some people lost their lives in my neighbourhood".

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