Death toll from California mudslides rises to 18

Phillip Harnsberger crosses through mud from a flooded creek on Sheffield Drive in Montecito Calif

Emergency workers search areas damaged from storms in Montecito, Calif., Jan. 11, 2018.

Officials have now confirmed the mudslides have claimed at least 15 lives, while dozens more are missing.

Intense rain Tuesday morning pounded steep terrain burned by the Thomas fire just weeks earlier, unearthing a wall of mud, rocks and debris that raced down creek beds so quickly that residents didn't have time to get out of harm's way. But some residents said the exhaustion of being chased from their homes made them hesitant to evacuate a second time. Earlier, officials said just eight people were unaccounted for. "People who didn't lose their house in the fire - they just lost huge things in the mud". The highway, U.S. Highway 101, remains closed indefinitely.

Mud fills the interior of a auto destroyed in a rain-driven mudslide in a neighborhood under mandatory evacuation in Burbank. At least two of her family cars were destroyed and she's not sure how her cottage fared. Caroline, a high school water polo star and a senior at Barnard College in NY, was fatally injured and died in her brother's arms, her uncle said.

Rescue crews worked up to 12 hours a day and risked stepping on nails or shattered glass, or being exposed to raw sewage, or dealing with leaking gas, Mr Page said.

In a statement, Van Hecke said Rohter and his wife were swept away from their home in Montecito. Then she added, with a laugh, "that's very unlike me".

Well before dawn on Tuesday, a thundering juggernaut of unstoppable mud and debris swept down upon the sleeping community from the Santa Ynez Mountains above them, crushing everything in its path.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said residents who had stayed behind or tried to check on damage in neighbourhoods had hindered the recovery effort.


"We were all exhausted of it", he said. "You have to start accepting the reality of that".

"I thought I was dead there for a minute", the mud-caked girl told rescuers, NBC reported. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

She is survived by two adult children and three grandchildren.

Mr Brown also named the five people still missing, which included Fabiola Benitez, the mother of Jonathan Benitez, a 10-year-old killed in the flooding. None of the adult dead shared their last names.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said Tuesday night that Montecito would be without potable water, electricity and sanitation "for an extended period of time". He had been on the list of missing persons. The roofs of some homes in canyon runoff areas were encased in mud, which has now dried.

Ms Benitez lived with her sister-in-law, Marilyn Ramos, 27, who was asleep with her daughter, Kaelly, 3, when mud crashed through their Montecito rental home, carrying both to their deaths. In one upscale neighborhood, firefighters warned each other of below-ground pools, which have turned into watery traps for the unwary.

Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. They've got power back, limited cell phone service and food for their six dogs and 20 chickens.

The area is home to a number of celebrities, including actor Rob Lowe, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres and TV personality and actor Oprah Winfrey.

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