January 23, 2019

Rescuers continue to search for people in rubble of USA mudslide

14 January 2018, 08:05 | Devin Moran

UPDATE: Rescues start as mud threatens California areas

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

Weimer said his wife, Kelly, had tried to reach her parents beginning Tuesday morning, and the bad news came Wednesday: The bodies of James and Alice, married for five decades and grandparents of six, had been found in the detritus. The couple had to previously evacuate during the California wildfires.

The Mitchells were in love with their home in the seaside enclave of Montecito where they moved in 1995, according to their daughter. They chose not to leave this time, she said. Montecito is a small town, so it felt like everyone knew someone lost or seriously impacted by the disaster.

"They were told to shelter until they heard a knock at the door", Crail said.

The hard search goes on in Montecito, California, five days after storm-spawned mudslides roared down from fire-stripped hillsides and smashed through dozens of homes, killing at least 18 people and leaving others missing.

The victims range in age from 3 years old to 89; all were residents of Montecito.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Joseph Bleckel was found dead in his home by a search-and-rescue team at about 11:30 a.m. Friday.

"There have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days (following similar disasters) and certainly we are searching for a miracle right now", Brown said.

Among those killed was Josephine "Josie" Gower, 69, an "always cheery" regular at the Read 'N Post, a newsstand and gift shop, said Jan Hendrickson, the store's owner. "I tried to get out every single way and there was no way out. I'm going to do everything I can".

The water and powerful debris flows destroyed about 100 homes and damaged 300 others in the Montecito community, known for its multimillion-dollar properties.

More than 29,000 people are under the evacuation orders which could last for at least a week.

The backbreaking work went on in the summerlike weather that has made the stretch of Santa Barbara County coast about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles a haven for the wealthy, celebrities and tourists.

Several homes were swept away before dawn Tuesday when mud and debris roared into neighborhoods in Montecito from hillsides stripped of vegetation during a recent wildfire.

The mud and debris buried hundreds of homes so deep that in some places, only the chimneys are visible. Car-sized boulders littered streets.

Turns out, there was a gas fire as well as the mudslides.

"Auto and pedestrian traffic in the exclusionary zone has reached a point that it is seriously impacting the ability of search and rescue, public works, other first responders and fix crews to clear roadways and to engage in search and rescue, fix and damage-assessment operations", he said.

Brown said some of those on the missing list may simply have left the area before or after the mudslides or may just be out of touch with the family and friends looking for them. "We're going to come together and we're going to do what great Americans do all the time", Winfrey said.

But there were also glimmers of optimism amid the fury of the flood. Jaws of life and other tools were used to carefully extricate her.

As Johnson and his family ran up to the second level of their home, about 8 to 9 feet of mud followed them closely.

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