Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Search Continues for Missing After Mudslides in California

A semi-tractor trailer sits stuck in mud on U.S. Highway 101, in Montecito. The task force is prepared to stay in Montecito for 21 days.

The Thomas Fire, in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, is 92 percent contained and has burned over 280,000 acres and destroyed almost 1,000 structures, leading to unsafe mud and debris flows following recent heavy rains.

"A lot of the street signs are gone, the roads are impassable".

Rescue crews worked up to 12 hours a day and risked stepping on nails or shattered glass, or being exposed to raw sewage, or dealing with leaking gas, Page said. "It was just wiped clean".

"My sister was such a good person, she only thought of others to the point that she would cry with you when you were hurt or sick", said Ramos' sister, Jennifer Ramos, pausing to sob for several seconds.

The disaster has claimed at least 18 lives, cutting across generations and killing parents alongside their children.

Those killed were as young as 3 and as old as 84. James Mitchell was the oldest. He says they lived in a voluntary evacuation zone, so they made a decision to ride out Tuesday's storm. People had packed up, left and come back, and some were not so eager to leave again.

Southern California authorities have corrected the number of people missing since the Montecito mudslides to eight.

Tighe says there was no mandatory evacuation for her community.

"We were all exhausted of it", he said.

That fire, the largest in California history, had roared across the hillsides above Montecito, leaving sloping patches of earth that were expected to give way in a downpour.

Montecito is best known as a getaway for the rich and famous - the median home price among current listings is more than 4 million dollars (£2.9m) - although there are also working families living in modest houses and apartments. The worst damage was in the community of Montecito, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said, where some homes were knocked off their foundations by the strength of the mudslide. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

According to the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Office, these are the names of those killed this week when heavy rain unleashed flash floods, mudslides and debris flow in the southern part of the state. He said those who perished range in age from three to 89 years old."There are four juveniles on the list", he said.

Crews are continually moving forward in rescue mode, searching for survivors; however, access is proving to be extremely hard.

Diane Brewer knew Josie Gower, 69, for 54 years. "I screamed at my family and water started coming into the house". "My dad used to cut his hair".

"I'm not sure where she could be", the volunteer said.

Mark was an avid ice hockey player who had skated in a game the night before the mudslides. The mother and one of the children were found and are recovering at a hospital, he said.

The Mitchells likewise opted to stay.

Their daughter Kelly Weimer last spoke to them on Monday when she called to wish her father a happy birthday. They were ready to leave if they needed to.

When it was over, he was able to hike to a nearby road and flag down firefighters who helped his family get out. The town of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles sustained heavy damage after mudslides slammed into homes, covered highways and swept away vehicles.

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