Desperate search for survivors in California mudslides

Lawrence Kim
January 13, 2018

Officials have now confirmed the mudslides have claimed at least 15 lives, while dozens more are missing. A huge police presence keeps out both residents and looters.

Santa Barbara County authorities sent a shudder through the community early this when they reported that the number of people unaccounted for had surged from 16 to 48.

Flooding on Highway 101 in Montecito. Her home escaped damage in both disasters. 17 dead. More than 400 homes damaged. "We think somewhere in the debris field", she said. Best to give workers a chance to clear the roads up, she said.

"I thought I was dead for a minute there", the dazed girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.

"It was a freaky moment to see her just covered in mud", he said. "There's been plenty of cases where they've found people a week after", Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said on a muddy Montecito street that was especially hard hit by the mudslide.

"That's always our mentality: 'Hey, we're going to find someone alive, '" Dep Page said. "You have to start accepting the reality of that".

The couple did not heed a voluntary evacuation warning and stayed home to celebrate Jim Mitchell's 89th birthday. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice. But Victor Benitez lost one of his sons, 10-year-old Jonathan Benitez, and his wife, Fabiola, is missing. Peerawat's last name was also misspelled by officials, Marshall Taylor said.

All of the dead were killed by "multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides", authorities said.

Anderson says the number dropped because people were located, but it could continue to fluctuate greatly.

On Wednesday, loved ones searched for Montecito resident Josie Gower near her home, which was surrounded by knee-deep mud and large boulders that had been carried by the force of the mudslides.

The damage above Montecito isn't absolute.

A search and rescue team work amid uprooted trees and rocks on mud in Montecito, California on January 12, 2018.

Residents of the mudslide-hit area were assessing their damaged homes, with some grateful that their properties survived.

Flooding and debris inundate a portion of Highway 101 at Olive Mill Road. "But they're talking two weeks of closure".

Teams have completed initial searches of the entire debris field and are about a quarter of the way through a more intensive follow-up search of the zone, Anderson said. The mudslides began raindrops on top of hillsides in the Los Padres National Forest and then gained momentum as they tore downhill through the neighborhoods, picking up ash, dirt and debris along the way. She was pulled from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours. "It's crusty on top but soft underneath, so we're having to be very careful".

Interjected her husband with a smile: "And if it gets bad, we've got all those chickens".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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