Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Death toll rises to 15 as crews continue rescues, recovery in Montecito

Death toll rises to 15 as crews continue rescues, recovery in Montecito

At least 15 deaths have been attributed to flooding and mudslides that struck Southern California Tuesday morning after heavy rainfall.

The founder of St. Augustine Academy, Roy Rohter, was one of those killed in Ventura County, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Thirteen people are dead following a powerful overnight storm that swept through Santa Barbara County and unleashed flooding and mudslides that carried boulders and debris through neighborhoods.

Winfrey posted a photo of mud in her backyard.

U.S. talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and media mogul Oprah Winfrey are among the residents of the community and both have taken to social media to describe what they've seen.

"We are saddened to report that the death toll has now risen to 17", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters, saying it had been "another extremely challenging day". The mudslides destroyed about 100 homes and injured 28 people. "Many chose to stay in place", Brown said.

The most impacted area has been Montecito, the wealthiest community in Santa Barbara county.

Thomas Tighe said he stepped outside his Montecito home in the middle of the night after hearing the "deep rumblling" sound of boulders moving as mud levels rose.


Helicopters were used to hoist more than 50 people to safety from roofs, where they scrambled to escape the mud or because debris had blocked roads and left them stranded. Looking for missing persons.

Local fire chief Anthony Buzzerio said around three quarters of the affected area has now been searched - with some rescuers falling down manholes and into swimming pools that have been covered up.

"I'm heartbroken for our community of Montecito", she said.

From the rubble of another home, firefighters rescued a 14-year-old girl who had been trapped for hours after her home collapsed. She said that her property was fine and that the damage "pales in comparison" to what her neighbors were going through.

Rescue efforts are under way in Santa Barbara County for residents trapped by mudslides that overwhelmed an area scorched by wildfires last month.

About 30,000 residents were under evacuation orders.

"The house being gone, it's just a house, it's just some clothes and a house", Sam Johnson told Reuters.

The flooding comes just weeks after the Thomas fire burned almost 282,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, stripping hillsides of vegetation needed to stem water runoff during rainstorms.

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