California mudslides death toll rises with 13 still missing

Angelo Anderson
January 13, 2018

The Thomas fire burned almost 282,000 acres in December in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, stripping hillsides of vegetation needed to stem water runoff during rainstorms.

Firefighters slogged through mud and debris to reach 14-year-old Laura Cantin in a rescue effort that took almost six hours Tuesday in Santa Barbara County.

"We are still very much in active search-and-rescue mode", said Chris Elms, a spokesman for Cal Fire, warning that the death toll may still rise.

A strong winter storm hammered the region on the U.S. West Coast on Monday, bringing heavy downpours and sending mud and debris into residential neighborhoods before dawn on Tuesday.

Oprah Winfrey's property in Santa Barbara, Calif., is one of the many homes damaged by deadly mudslides and flash floods in the area.

"Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara", Winfrey wrote late Tuesday, sharing photos of her mud-soaked backyard and helicopters making rescues in the area. Helicopters rescuing my neighbors.

As of Thursday morning, the death toll has reached 17 people and there are now eight missing, according to the Santa Barbara Country Sheriff's Office.

County Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni said that five people were found dead on Tuesday in Montecito and may have been killed as result of the storm. "We were laying in bed listening to the rain, and out of nowhere our bed just started shaking, and we could hear just this, like, thunder", she told KTLA-TV.

The area, sandwiched between the ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, is home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, who relish its natural beauty and proximity to sprawling Los Angeles.

Wednesday's efforts focused on aerial evacuations of those trapped in Romero Canyon and on clearing roadways to enable rescuers to reach homes. If you live in Santa Barbara or Ventura counties and are interested in seeing if you are at risk of a debris flow, ESRI's interactive map can be used below.

Winfrey, fresh from sparking rumours of a United States presidential run, said on Instagram she was "praying for our community again in Santa Barbara".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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