Death toll from California mudslide rises to 17

14 January, 2018, 12:59 | Author: Laverne Higgins
  • The 2017 Thomas fire that burned in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties left behind vast swaths of charred landscape like this area in Upper Rincon Canyon

"It's just waiting and not knowing, and the more I haven't heard from them - we have to find them", said Kelly Weimer, whose elderly parents' home was wrecked by the torrent of mud in a coastal town in Santa Barbara. For many this was the second time in two months after fires ravaged the area last month.

The destruction was described by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown as looking "like a World War I battlefield".

Some 500 responders using search dogs, military helicopters and thermal imaging equipment waded through waist-deep mud among fallen trees and boulders - in the hopes of finding anyone alive.

Emergency personnel search through debris and damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito, California on January 9. This type of soil can not absorb water as easily, making the region more vulnerable to mudslides during heavy rains-such as the ones that dumped five inches of rain on parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties this week.

Rescue efforts are fully mobilized, he said, adding that there are now 683 rescue workers, up from 450 on Wednesday, involved in the disaster relief efforts.

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Other parts of Santa Barbara County had been evacuated due to the threat of mudslides in the heavy rains that struck the region Monday and Tuesday in the wake of the Thomas fire, the state's largest ever.

Santa Barbara County authorities said Thursday afternoon up to 43 people are missing as a result of the mudslides this week in the Montecito area. Around 7,000 residents above Montecito closer to the fire zone were the focus of the evacuation order, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Rescue crews in U.S. state of California have been combing through tons of debris for survivors after 17 people were confirmed dead and another 17 people missing. Helicopters rescued dozens of stranded people. The mud was reported to be up to 5 feet deep in places.

"I'm just exhausted. I can't seem to get my life kick-started", Teri Lebow, whose Montecito, California was damaged by the wildfires, told the Los Angeles Times.

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