ibusinesslines.com September 20, 2018

Dozens still unaccounted for in California mudslides

13 January 2018, 12:06 | Kelvin Horton

Eight people are still missing and rescuers have been working around the clock to try to find any survivors after a wall of mud tore down hillsides two days ago in the scenic area between the Pacific Ocean and the Los Padres National Forest.

People in Montecito avoided the ravages of the biggest wildfire in California history last month.

"The focus is still on search and rescue; that's still our primary goal", Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said in a phone interview.

Anxious family members awaited word on loved ones Wednesday as rescue crews searched for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides in Southern California destroyed an estimated 100 houses, swept away cars and left at least 17 victims dead. Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Gigi Hadid were among those who live in the coastal city where the nearby 101 Freeway turned into a muddy river, reported ABC News.

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

He added several dozen homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are probably many more in similar condition in areas still inaccessible.

Additionally, officials said that at least 21,000 people have been evacuated as a result of the mudslides, the Associated Press reported.

Search and rescue efforts have been slow as crews have had to make their way through waist-deep mud, fallen trees, boulders and other debris.

"Our hearts break for the communities first ravaged by fires and now devastated by these mudslides", Brown said in a statement.

DeGeneres said on her talk show on Thursday that the picturesque town of 9,000 is a "tight-knit" community.

Highway 101 has been shut down in both directions because of the mud, Santa Barbara County officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

Thomas Tighe said he stepped outside his Montecito home in the middle of the night and heard "a deep rumbling, an ominous sound I knew was ... boulders moving as the mud was rising".

Oprah Winfrey's home sustained minor damage after a major mudslide hit southern California. "She had been trapped for hours in a pile of wood that was once her house".

The disaster followed a violent rainstorm that dumped up to 15cm of water onto areas north-west of Los Angeles. "I hope that's OK", he said.

Forecasts of rain meant the authorities did issue an evacuation order in Santa Barbara county in case of mudslides, but it is estimated only around 10 to 15% of people in the area obeyed the warning.

Many residents made a decision to stay.

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