January 24, 2019

Death toll in California mudslides hits 17 as search for continues

13 January 2018, 12:02 | Joann Bryant

Getty Images

Getty Images

The former talk-show host, whose Golden Globes speech spurred chatter about a 2020 run, shared a video montage to her Instagram account depicting damage done to her 65-acre Santa Barbara County property, People magazine reported.

More than 500 firefighters helped with overnight search and rescue operations, Orozco says.

Many people stayed because they had just returned after fleeing the Thomas Fire, which burned over 280,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures last month.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said emergency personnel notified residents in the evacuation zone on Monday evening.

At least 65 homes in Santa Barbara County were destroyed in the storm and another 446 were damaged, while eight commercial buildings were flattened, according to the latest count by Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Controversy continues to brew over whether or not residents living in the areas hit hardest by the recent mudslides in Montecito were properly warned by Santa Barbara County officials.

Most fatalities are believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy town about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles that is home to celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe. "What a day!" she said, adding "Helicopters rescuing my neighbors". The cause of death for all 17 victims who perished will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said in a statement on Thursday.

Television mogul Oprah Winfrey's home survived the rainstorm and ensuring mudslides.

"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'".

DeGeneres posted a picture on Twitter of herself standing in mud next to a downed tree near her home.

The slide also caused a "significant" gas leak, and fix efforts left homes on the street with no gas, electricity or water. "She had been trapped for hours in a pile of wood that was once her house".

Flooding and debris inundate a portion of Highway 101 at Olive Mill Road.

"We still need to find out if there's any remains or any life potential that's left in there", said Los Angeles County Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Buzzerio, who is working on a plan to find and preserve human remains. Nearly the entire community - about 10,000 people - is now under mandatory evacuation orders, which could last "one to two weeks", according to the Santa Barbara County fire chief.

Many residents chose to stay.

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