Storm, mudslides kill at least 13 in California - Taipei Times
Thu, Jan 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Storm, mudslides kill at least 13 in California

AP, MONTECITO, California

Emergency personnel prepare to rescue a trapped woman inside a collapsed house in Montecito, California, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters / Kenneth Song / Santa Barbara News-Press

A storm that slammed into California coastal community is over. The search for its victims is not.

Authorities in Santa Barbara County yesterday were still trying to reach new areas and dig into the destruction to find dead, injured or trapped people after a powerful mudflow swept away dozens of homes.

At least 13 people were confirmed dead on Tuesday, at least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopters.

Those numbers could increase when the search is expanded, with a major search-and-rescue team arriving from nearby Los Angeles County, and help from the Coast Guard and National Guard, along with law enforcement.

They were to focus first on finding survivors.

“Right now our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

The sheriff said “at least several dozen homes have been either destroyed or severely damaged, and likely many other ones are in areas that are as-yet inaccessible.”

He said it was likely they would find more people amid that destruction.

The search for the missing — whose numbers are uncertain — was to continue through the night and then intensify after daylight yesterday, authorities said.

Most deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos said.

The wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

Winfrey’s home survived the storm and mudslides.

In an Instagram post she shared photographs of the deep mud in her backyard and video of rescue helicopters hovering over her house.

“What a day!” Winfrey said. “Praying for our community again in Santa Barbara.”

A mud-caked 14-year-old girl was among the dozens rescued on the ground on Tuesday.

She was pulled from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.

“I thought I was dead for a minute there,” the dazed girl could be heard saying before she was taken away on a stretcher on a video posted by KNBC-TV.

The mudslides were unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains.

The torrent arrived suddenly and with a sound some likened to a freight train as water carrying rocks and trees washed away cars and trashed homes.

Thomas Tighe said he stepped outside his Montecito home in the middle of the night and heard “a deep rumbling, an ominous sound I knew was ... boulders moving as the mud was rising.”

In daylight, Tighe was shocked to see a body pinned by muck against his neighbor’s home. He was not sure who it was.

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