The Latest on the California Mudslide Disaster

Victim Search Expands as California Storm, Mudslides Kill 13

Victim Search Expands as California Storm, Mudslides Kill 13

Southern California rescue workers using dogs and scanners searched for eight people feared lost in the wreckage of this week's deadly mudslides, which struck along the state's picturesque coastal communities, according to officials.

With heavy rain forecast, authorities had ordered evacuations beneath the burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but only 10 to 15 percent of residents heeded the orders, according to the Santa Barbara police department.

Crews have been working round the clock after mudslides tore through the fire-ravaged hills around Santa Barbara on Tuesday, leaving 16 dead, dozens missing and hundreds stuck inside their homes.

Officials worked for days, even going door-to-door, to warn residents that the hillsides were ripe for risky mudflow after the fires destroyed the vegetation that could hold the soil in place, said Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer for Santa Barbara County.

Karson, reporting for NPR from Pasadena, Calif., said the mudflows above Montecito were so powerful they ripped some homes off their foundations. The number of missing people has fluctuated since the disaster hit early Tuesday morning and had been as low as 17 on Wednesday.

Victim Search Expands as California Storm, Mudslides Kill 13

Dozens of stranded residents have been rescued by helicopter in areas of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties - some from their vehicles and others from rooftops.

Among dramatic rescue stories emerging were one of a baby dug from the sludge and a 14-year-old girl helped from her collapsed home.

In Montecito, rescuers have been tearing through mounds of mud, furniture and fallen trees to search for those trapped. "It's emotional for me to say this, but I think they're gone". Eight people remain unaccounted for, authorities said. "And there are families missing, there are people who are missing family members.it's catastrophic".

The disaster was already unfolding when Santa Barbara County officials sent out their first cellphone alert at 3:50 a.m. County emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to send one sooner out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

And the couple have not yet been able to return to their property to see if anything has been damaged.

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Heavy rains on hillsides denuded by last year's record wildfires triggered the mudslides, which also destroyed about 100 homes and injured at least 28 people, officials said.

Last month's spate of wildfires, including the largest in California history, not only burned away grass and shrubs that held soil in place, but also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

Former US tennis No 1 Jimmy Connors had to be rescued from home by helicopter and chat show queen Oprah Winfrey prayed for her neighbours.

With blockages making driving hard, some are hiking or biking to work - including staff at a Montecito retirement home, CNN affiliate KEYT reported.

Road closed: U.S. 101 in parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara will remain closed for at least 48 hours because of the muddy debris covering it, authorities said Tuesday.

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Another storm-related death was reported in Northern California, where a man was killed when his auto was apparently struck by falling rocks in a landslide Tuesday evening in Napa County.

Residents waded through mud and still-flowing water to get to their homes. "We are heartbroken over the loss of lives in our community".

Living just outside the mandatory evacuation zone, Gary Goldberg said most of his neighbours probably felt out of harm's way during this week's deadly California mudslides.

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