Death toll climbs to 18 in massive Montecito mudslide

A member of the Long Beach Search and Rescue team looks for survivors in a car in Montecito

Death toll from California mudslides now 18 – official

Firefighters and utility crews have been working with chain saws and jackhammers, while heavy machinery was used to scoop up mud and rocks around buckled and flattened homes. "It's like we're on an island. It's crusty on top but soft underneath, so we're having to be very careful". Residents were still in shock over the loss of life.

Sheriff Bill Brown cautioned Thursday that many or most of those unaccounted for may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported them missing.

"A number of houses were gutted, with rescuers pulling out people trapped under mountains of debris", KCLU's Lance Orozco wrote on Tuesday night.

At least 17 people are dead, including a 3-year-old girl, after mudslides tore through Southern California Tuesday, upending homes and tearing families apart.

Many residents in Montecito were under orders of evacuation as crews continued to search for missing victims, as well as fix power, water and gas lines and clean up massive quantities of debris. They were supported by K-9 units, 10 helicopters and six bulldozers.

Debris flows pose a significant threat when rain falls in the aftermath of wildfires such as the inferno that scorched more than 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometres) in two Southern California counties last month and destroyed and damaged hundreds of homes and other structures.

The California Department of Transportation abandoned an estimate of reopening the highway on Monday and said it was not known when the closure would be lifted. You talk to one cop, you get one piece of information, you talk to another, and you get another piece. "I'm really flabbergasted to imagine how they're going to survive this rainy season", he said. Neighborhoods were wiped out and roads strewn with massive boulders and trees.

Looking back, Farrell says he regrets not evacuating his parents. Residents will not be allowed to return to their homes while the evacuation order is lifted, which may not happen for one or two weeks, officials said.

But county emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to use the cellphone push alert system until 3:50 a.m. Tuesday out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

Our hearts go out to all those in Montecito.

The cause of death for most of the victims will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said Thursday. At least 64 homes have been destroyed and at least 400 damaged. 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. "They weren't concerned", Weimer said. "I should have just told her to leave".

Rescue crews were busy sticking poles into thick muck, swollen creeks and tangled trees in search of five missing people while dogs sniffed for bodies.

Farrell spoke to ABC 7 Thursday morning, saying they took shelter in a hallway at the back of the house, standing in thigh-high mud for more than an hour.

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