Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Death toll from California mudslides rises to 19

Death toll from California mudslides rises to 19

Officials in Santa Barbara County announced 65 single-family homes were destroyed and almost 450 sustained damage.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department reported that 100 homes were destroyed and 17 people died in deadly storms that caused mudslides.

It was six at the beginning of an afternoon news conference, but someone called in to say one of the men on the list was at a hospital.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted the state's request for expanded federal disaster assistance in response to the devastating mudslides that have impacted Santa Barbara County and the community of Montecito, according to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets ploughed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 4.6m of mud. "That is why we have the canines to help us assist in those efforts to either sniff out or guide us to areas potentially that could have other people that need assistance and rescue".

"We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", said local artist Garrett Speirs, 54. "We're going to do what we do", she told DeGeneres.

A mandatory evacuation order has been extended, as Santa Barbara's County Sherriff said residents staying behind were hindering recovery efforts. "So our missing list is down to five", Brown said.

"This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and fix zone right now", he said.

"They were in a voluntary evacuation area so they figured they were OK", said Weimer.

Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

Now, three days in to a mandatory evacuation order they made a decision to ignore, the Shaws said they're determined to ride out what could be a multi-week closure. "They weren't concerned. It's not like anybody came around and told them to leave".

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving flawless conditions for the latest disaster to unfold. "We are the lucky ones", he said, shaking his head with the knowledge that a single boulder on a different trajectory could have taken out his home. "(It) surrounded the house, 2 to 3 feet".

"(In) four minutes the water was through our wall and in our house, nearly to the second story", he said. "You just don't even think that this is possible".

That's what caught the ear of Thomas Tighe, a Montecito resident who was outside around 3:30 a.m. checking his home's downspouts during a downpour. It wasn't fully contained until this week.

Heavy rain and a "deep rumbling" sound preceded the massive amounts of mud that blanketed miles and killed at least 17 people.

"At this moment, we are still looking for live victims".

For days, officials advised residents in areas burned by the Thomas fire that a coming storm could bring major mudflows. "There's nearly always more" that could come down, Jibson said.

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