Sixteen people are dead, 24 are missing and at least 300 are trapped in mudslides which have torn the wealthy town of Montecito apart.
The death toll climbed on Wednesday as emergency workers pulled bodies from a river of knee-deep mud and boulders which rained down on homes after a torrent of rain earlier in the week.
The debris was able to rush down on to the community because the hillside vegetation which would have ordinarily impeded it was stripped during the catastrophic wildfires last month.
Many residents put themselves in danger by not heeding mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders issued while there was still time to escape.
Emergency services attributed the decision to ‘evacuation fatigue’ after last month’s wildfires which drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.
As more unthinkable damage rocked the area, celebrities were among those who found themselves caught up in the chaos.
Oprah Winfrey’s $50million home survived the damage and she was not home for the worst of it but she visited the site on Tuesday to share her shock and grief. Tennis star Jimmy Connors revealed to fans that he had to be airlifted out of his home to safety.
As they surveyed the damage, 300 people remained trapped in the hillside community of Romero Canyon which has become impassable. Authorities are working on an evacuation plan to airlift the hundreds of stranded residents to safety.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said on Wednesday that his officers still did not know how many were trapped.
‘We don’t know how many people are still trapped. We know there are some, we’re still making our way into certain areas of Montecito and the adjacent areas to determine if anyone is still there and still alive,’ he told CBS.
The first victims have been identified. They include fathers and husbands whose wives and children were rescued but they were swept away.
Among the missing are sisters Morgan Corey, 25, and Sawyer Corey, 12, who were asleep in their home when the mudslides hit.
The miraculous rescue of teenager Lauren Cantin, who was pulled from her crumpled home when firefighters heard her screaming, was crushed by the devastating news that her father, Dave, had been killed. As the scale of the damage begins to emerge, questions persist over why so many died in the devastation.
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Source: Daily Mail