California police hope for "miracle" to find missing in mudslide

Sergio Conner
January 14, 2018

Seventeen people were reported dead in the mudslides, with the oldest victim being 89-years-old and the youngest at 3-years-old, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At least 25 other people were injured, authorities said at an afternoon press conference.

Officials ordered residents in most of the southeastern corner of Montecito, which is east of Santa Barbara, to leave their homes for what was likely to be one or two weeks.

Meanwhile, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres, who lives nearby, said that everyone in the Montecito community was affected by the "catastrophic" mudslides.

"We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", said Garrett Speirs, a 54-year-old artist who has been living in Montecito for 20 years.

Mandatory evacuations have been extended as more than 1200 emergency workers continue to search mud as deep as 4.6m in places.

One missing person was found alive on Saturday but chances were dwindling fast that more survivors could still be located from the torrent of mud and debris that struck on Tuesday, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

California police hope for

Seven people had been missing at the start of the day, which saw about another 900 emergency personnel arrive in Montecito, north of Los Angeles, to join the relief effort under way by more than 2,100 personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the US Navy and the American Red Cross.

Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving ideal conditions for the latest disaster to unfold.

After a wildfire, burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption. It wasn't fully contained until this week. The mudslide have damaged hundreds of buildings and caked highways with sludge.

And because of the fire, communities below the scarred terrain could remain at risk of mudslides for years, said Randall Jibson, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey.

"(But) no storm brings down everything that is susceptible. With most utilities out of commission or about to be cut off, staying behind was not an option for many.

Short term, making the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains is key, he said.

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