California mudslides death toll rises, eight missing

California mudslides death toll rises, eight missing

"The partner of one of the people killed in the California mudslides says the victim had just enough time to shout, "'grab onto some wood and don't let go.'" before he was swept to his death.

The founder of St. Augustine Academy, Roy Rohter, was one of those killed in Ventura County, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Josie Gower held onto a door frame when a devastating river of mud rushed inside her Montecito home.

The upmarket neighbourhood of Montecito is home to celebrities such as actor Rob Lowe, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

The body count as of Wednesday was 15, with 25 reported injured and 50 having to be rescued.

On Thursday, the search and rescue mission looked more like a recovery operation.

"We are saddened to report that the death toll has now risen to 17", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters, saying it had been "another extremely challenging day". Numerous homes that have been destroyed or heavily damaged are in areas that are now inaccessible.

"I think most people are really shocked at the extent of the damage and how big the impact was to the area", Brown said.

The declaration will now include damage from the flooding and mudslides that damaged Montecito and other Santa Barbara County communities after heavy storms hit areas scorched by the December wildfire.

Ben Hyatt rushed to wake everyone up when rivers of mud started banging the doors and walls of his Montecito home.

Mandatory evacuations had been ordered in parts of Santa Barbara County, but it is believed only 10% to 15% of residents actually heeded the warning.

Some 500 responders using search dogs, military helicopters and thermal imaging equipment waded through waist-deep mud among fallen trees and boulders - in the hopes of finding anyone alive.

DeGeneres became emotional when talking about the community in which she lives with wife Portia De Rossi. Looking for missing persons.

Among them was a mud-caked 14-year-old girl who was pulled after hours trapped under the rubble of a collapsed home in Montecito.

"I mean you're losing all your basic health and sanitation services", she said.

"While some residents cooperated, many did not".

Much of the area was devastated by recent wildfires, including the massive Thomas fire, the largest in California history. "We're seeing people rescued off the roofs of houses that were just a few doors down".

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