California mudslides leave 18 dead as rescue workers dig for survivors

California mudslides leave 18 dead as rescue workers dig for survivors

"There's been plenty of cases where they've found people a week after", Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office made a plea for information on any of the missing residents, while acknowledging that finding anyone alive would be a "miracle".

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 4.6m of mud.

Seven people had been missing at the start of the day, which saw about another 900 emergency personnel arrive in Montecito, north of Los Angeles, to join the relief effort under way by more than 2,100 personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the US Navy and the American Red Cross.

"We're really joined together", she said.

Meanwhile, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres, who lives nearby, said that everyone in the Montecito community was affected by the "catastrophic" mudslides.

Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

"We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", Garrett Speirs, a 54-year-old artist who has been living in Montecito for 20 years, said.

A map of current evacuation orders and warnings can be found here.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving flawless conditions for the latest disaster to unfold.

The Thomas Fire - the largest wildfire in California's recorded history - burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month.

The, was declared fully contained Friday.

Geologists and forecasters warned that intense rain could trigger deadly mudslides from the scorched areas.

Montecito may be at slightly less risk now, because this week's flooding already brought down vulnerable material. "There's nearly always more that could come down", Jibson said. Long term, one option would be more basins to slow down storm runoff and collect debris. But Tom Fayram, the deputy director of the county's flood control district, said the crews were making great progress and he was confident that at least a base level of water would be able to pass through the creek channels.

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