At least 17 killed in California mudslides

At least 17 killed in California mudslides

The girl's house was just one of several destroyed in the coastal community of Montecito, home to many of Santa Barbara County's most affluent residents.

"The correct number of missing is down to eight", Mike Eliason, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told Xinhua in a phone interview.

"We are still very much in active search-and-rescue mode", said Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters, adding that the number of fatalities could rise as searches progressed.

The Los Angeles Times noted that rescue teams have been forced to use helicopters because many roads in the area are impassable. Workers were also attempting to clear as many roads as possible from the slippery muck to make it easier for rescue crews to move around.

Firefighters slogged through mud and debris to reach 14-year-old Laura Cantin in a rescue effort that took almost six hours Tuesday in Santa Barbara County.

At least 13 people were confirmed dead on Tuesday, at least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopters.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed or severely damaged, including Oprah Winfrey's 65-acre Montecito estate.

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The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Thomas Fire and Whittier Fire burn areas along the Santa Barbara County south coast.

A group of up to 300 people are reportedly trapped in Romero Canyon, east of Santa Barbara.

Bill Brown, sheriff of Santa Barbara, said: "The best way I can describe it is, it looked like a World War One battlefield". Over the past month California's scenic coastline was ravaged by a series of intense wildfires that burned off vegetation.

She said she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, had to evacuate their home on Sunday, just 10 days after returning from a previous evacuation for wildfires.

The mudslide areas are under mandatory evacuation orders for at least a week, but the sheriff has cautioned residents to plan to be away for a full two weeks.

The death toll from Tuesday's mudslides stands at 17. The fires burned away grass and shrubs that hold the soil in place and also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

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