California mudslides lead to at least 13 deaths

Officials said numerous deaths are believed to be in the coastal Montecito area, where mudflows and floodwater have inundated areas downstream from where the Thomas Fire burned thousands of acres last month.

As of Thursday morning, the death toll has reached 17 people and there are now eight missing, according to the Santa Barbara Country Sheriff's Office.

The death toll rose yesterday as searchers pulled two more bodies from the inundated area in the Santa Barbara County enclave of Montecito.

The number of people missing after deadly mudslides in California has been lowered to eight.

The death toll in weather-related incidents in Santa Barbara County has risen to 17 early Wednesday, after a storm led to risky mudflows in the Thomas Fire burn area.

"We started looking around and that is when we saw parts of roofs, and there was a body against our next door neighbour's vehicle", Mr Funk, a financial adviser, said by phone.

Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets ploughed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 4.6 metres of mud, emergency officials said. Authorities have deployed helicopters to reach stranded residents.

Search teams, including search-rescue dogs, continued to look for victims into Tuesday evening.

After a wildfire, burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption.

Some 500 firefighters and other rescue workers were searching debris spread across a wide area of Montecito, a wealthy area of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles.

The devastation affected an area estimated at 30 square miles, according to Cal Fire. Several stars who live in the area took to social media to offer their support, including Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

After months of wildfires raging throughout the Santa Barbara, San Diego, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties, the city of Montecito in Ventura was drenched with record-hitting levels of rain, floods, and mudslides.

  • Leroy Wright