Firefighters rescue 14-year-old girl from California home destroyed by mudslides

Firefighters rescue 14-year-old girl from California home destroyed by mudslides

At least two deaths were blamed on the storm and mudslides in Santa Barbara County, the hardest-hit county in the area, County Supervisor Janet Wolf said in a telephone interview.

Bill Brown, the sheriff of Santa Barbara, said: "It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars, lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes, let alone to get people out of them".

Pontes said there was a water main break Tuesday at Olive Mill Road that flooded the freeway and water and debris is still coming down onto 101. At one point on Tuesday, at least two dozen people were missing, but Brown said later in the day that it was not clear how many had been located.

The pair had left their house before it was inundated with 6 feet (1.8 metres) of mud, but they got trapped outside in the deep sludge. "Mud in many places was up to residents" knees.

"We have an inordinate number of people in the area come to take a look, and they're impeding operations that are occurring out there", Brown said, adding that deputies would enforce a law that states any unauthorized person who enters a closed emergency area is committing a misdemeanor crime.

Sheriff deputies spent Monday conducting door-to-door evacuations for 7,000 people in a mandatory evacuation area. The California Highway Patrol shut down the northbound 101 at Route 126 in Ventura, and at Seacliff, and the southbound 101 was closed just south of Santa Barbara at Milpas. Powerful mudslides destroyed homes in the area as rescue crews rushed to search the rubble.

"Hence, a critical watershed was burned, and following wildfire and the immediate approach of winter storms, the threat of flash floods and debris flows is now 10 times greater than before the fire - they can happen with little or no warning".

Ben Hyatt said a river of mud crashed through a neighbor's house in Montecito, a community of about 8,000 east of Santa Barbara.

"Apparently, one of their cars ended (up) in their backyard".

"We started looking around and that's when we saw parts of roofs and there was a body against our next door neighbor's vehicle", Funk, who works as a financial adviser, said by telephone.

Heavy rain fell in areas charred by recent wildfires, triggering warnings of flash flooding and mudslides because vegetation that otherwise would hold hills together and make the terrain flood-resistant has burned away.

Hyatt said his Montecito house was "surrounded by mud", and a washing machine had drifted into his front yard.

"Mud came in an instant, like a dam breaking".

Fifty people have been rescued so far in Santa Barbara County, said county spokeswoman Valerie Kushnerov; efforts are concentrated in the Montecito area.

"Recent burn areas will be especially vulnerable where unsafe mud and debris flows are possible", the National Weather Service said in a statement. It was 92 percent contained, and officials don't expect full containment until later this month.

"That's definitely at play here".

Dave Zaniboni, the public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, called the amount of rainfall in the area "unprecedented", with quick downpours that occurred in less than 30 minutes early Tuesday morning causing mudslides.

In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people and destroying or damaging 36 houses.

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