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15 killed in California mudslides

15 killed in California mudslides

The search for its victims is not.

The number of people missing surged to 48 on Thursday morning, said Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson. "It all has to be done on foot", said Deputy Dan Page, chief of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department rescue team. But he confessed: "The likelihood is increasing that we'll be finding bodies, not survivors".

"Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown described the devastation this way: 'It looked like a World War I battlefield".

The disaster was already unfolding when Santa Barbara County officials sent out their first cellphone alert, at 3:50 a.m. County emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to send one sooner out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

DeGeneres Facetimed with her neighbor Oprah Winfrey, who earlier this week shared images of the destruction near her home.

The 69-year-old woman and her boyfriend were at home Tuesday when the mudslide swept through the neighborhood.

Another video shows a man, who was stranded in his red pick up truck surrounded by floodwaters, as a rope was passed down to him from the Down Fire Team rescue helicopter above.

Rescues: Dozens of people have been rescued in Santa Barbara County, officials said.

Among dramatic rescue stories emerging were one of a baby dug from the sludge and a 14-year-old girl helped from her collapsed home.

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey posted videos on Instagram showing her wading through almost knee-deep mud on her Montecito property and later inspecting the damage.

With the wildfires leaving behind a waxy layer of debris that made it hard for water to infiltrate the ground, the downpour caused flash floods in the fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains.

The rain fell at more than 1.5 inches per hour at one point early Tuesday in parts of southern California.

The torrent arrived suddenly and with a sound some likened to a freight train as water carrying rocks and trees washed away cars and trashed homes.




"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.

He saw two cars moving sideways down the middle of the street "in a river of mud". Just 50 feet from Mr. Tighe's home, firefighters found a body, wedged up against a neighbor's vehicle. He wasn't sure who it was.

The heaviest rains have now cleared away from the burn area, and the weather will continue to dry up on Wednesday.

Authorities say at least 100 homes have been destroyed.

All 17 deaths were reported in Santa Barbara County, in addition to 28 people being injured.

U.S. Highway 101, a crucial link between Ventura and Santa Barbara, was so overwhelmed by mud and debris that authorities announced it will remain closed until at least Monday. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received almost an inch in 15 minutes.

"All hell broke loose", said resident Peter Hartmann. "Power lines were down, high-voltage power lines".

Hartmann watched rescuers revive a toddler pulled unresponsive from the muck.

"I looked out my front window and saw my auto fly by", he said.

Mark Montgomery, 54, a doctor at Associated Hand Surgeons, was at home with his wife and two children when they were caught in the mudslide, a family friend told to KSBY.

The pair joined a fireman to dig the toddler out, scooping mud from her mouth before she was taken to hospital.

That number has now officially risen to 17. "But after the largest fire in California history, it's catastrophic, it's beyond recognizable". Blamed for two deaths, they spread over 440 square miles, and some areas are still smouldering.


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