World

8 people still missing after mudslides kill 17 in Southern California

8 people still missing after mudslides kill 17 in Southern California

The 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara County is expected to remain shut down through January 15 due to the devastating mudslides and flooding that have killed at least 17 people in Montecito.

Oprah Winfrey said she is one of the people who is affected by the deadly mudslides in Southern California.

"Another tough day in Santa Barbara County as Search and Rescue, Fire and Law Enforcement personnel from across our county and our neighboring counties searched for survivors and evacuated people", the sheriff's office said on its Twitter feed late Wednesday night.

The mudslide struck around 2:30am local time after a heavy band of rain arrived, sending "mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighbourhoods", the LA Times says.

At least 13 people were confirmed dead on Tuesday, at least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopters.

Emergency services said a number of people are unaccounted for and they expect the death toll to rise.

After the Storm Destruction in Montecito
After the Storm Destruction in Southern California Mike Eliason Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Santa Barbara County had issued an evacuation order for about 7,000 residents, but many didn't heed the warning.

Those numbers could increase when the search is expanded, with a major search-and-rescue team arriving from nearby Los Angeles County, and help from the Coast Guard and National Guard, along with law enforcement.

The huge storm also swept some homes away, creating a flood of debris and dirt.

The flash flooding began in the Santa Ynez Mountains, which was badly hit by wildfires last month.

First responders spent 6 hours freeing a terrified 14-year-old girl from a pile of muck and debris that had once been her house. That left land scorched, and the soil unable to absorb large amounts of water - making it vulnerable to the type of mudslides that engulfed the region on Tuesday. Another Montecito resident said he dug through four feet of mud to rescue a baby he and his wife had heard crying near a neighbor's home. Captian Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said, "It's our worst fear coming to life for us right now".





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