California seeks public's help to find those missing in mudslides

Carla Harmon
January 13, 2018

The fire erupted December 4 in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes before it spread into Santa Barbara County and threatened more communities including Montecito.

Those killed were as young as 3 and as old as 84.

Officials say more than 500 crew members are engaged in the search and rescue effort. The mudslides in the southwest USA state have destroyed many houses and cut off roads.

Authorities imposed a "mandatory evacuation zone" around large portions of Montecito Thursday night, warning residents that they should prepare to be away from their homes for as long as two weeks.

"There is one thing Roy would want from everyone - prayers", Van Hecke added.

A mudslide swept Rohter and his wife Theresa out of their home in Montecito.

Camp said water service throughout the district continues to be limited. "Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters' friendship and generosity".

Four children are among those killed, including a three-year-old girl who died alongside her mother, and an 87-year-old who was discovered in his home.

"I think I'd like to stay out of their way", she said.

At dawn, she went outside. Her daughter-in-law Sarah Gower confirmed Gower's death in a Facebook post.

John "Jack" Keating, a 53-year-old transient who often frequents the riverbed, is still missing. A third sister and the girls' mother are now being treated in the ICU, the family said. She said some missing-person reports are quickly cleared but others take time to resolve.

The monsoon-like rain was terrifying enough, but when David Weinert saw the house across the street erupt in flames fueled by a severed gas line he knew it was time to abandon his Montecito home. "It's essential to use every tool to accomplish the recovery of our community". The slides have killed at least 17, destroyed an estimated 100 homes, and sent rescuers scrambling through the rubble searching for dozens who are missing. While the work continued, Montecito residents watched with frustration.

Trashed areas were awash in a sea of mud, with only the tallest trees standing and some homes buried up to their roofs.

Santa Barbara County announced the new evacuation order in a press release at 7:30 p.m. local time Thursday evening. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped. Then, later Thursday, officials updated the number again, saying there were actually 43 people still unaccounted for. Benitez's husband and older son were rescued and hospitalized in stable condition, according to Lieberman, who said Benitez and her 9-year-old son remain missing and are feared dead.

Frustrations and dark discoveries mounted for a California town ravaged by a deadly and destructive mudslide.

The weather has snarled drivers and first responders attempting to aid storm victims.

The only way into some of the washed-out homes is by air.

Stranded drivers caught up in the rising water levels were being plucked from their vehicles to safer, dryer ground by emergency personnel relying on mostly aviation transportation. Tanker trucks were being used to haul off floodwaters sucked up from U.S. Highway 101, the crippled coastal route connecting Santa Barbara to Ventura.

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