Southern California Mudslides: At Least 17 Dead, 100 Homes Destroyed

Boulders block a road after a mudslide in Montecito

Search and rescue efforts intensified Wednesday for hundreds of Montecito residents feared trapped in their homes after deadly walls of mud and debris roared down California hillsides stripped of vegetation by recent ferocious wildfires.205F2988

The one-two punch of fire and downpour-fueled debris flows have debilitated the affluent, picturesque community of about 10,000 people. The slides have killed at least 17, destroyed an estimated 100 homes, and sent rescuers scrambling through the rubble searching for dozens who are missing.

“We have no idea where they’re at,” Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said of the missing people. “We think somewhere in the debris field.”

Sheriff Bill Brown said the primary focus of first responders was “to evacuate those who are trapped and need help getting out.” He said residents can shelter in place in their homes — adding that anyone moving about the area faces possible arrest.

The county fire department tweeted a photo of a mud-encased 14-year-old girl being rescued alive from the rubble of a Montecito home. Fire spokesman MIke Eliason said the girl had been trapped for hours.

Numerous celebrities have homes in the area, including staffers with Highlight Hollywood. Actor Rob Lowe said on social media that Oprah Winfrey’s home was being used as a staging area for helicopter rescues.

“Mourning the dead in our little town tonight,” Lowe said. “Praying for the survivors and preparing for whatever may come. #Montecito.”

Winfrey posted a photo of mud in her backyard. “What a day!” she said, adding “Helicopters rescuing my neighbors. Looking for missing persons.”

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:   AP
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