At least 15 people were killed and 25 injured after storms pummeled the coast of California on Wednesday.
Santa Barbara County officials continued the search after a powerful mudslide washed away dozens of homes. Eight bodies were found during a rescue operation in Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara County. Evacuations were ordered for about 700 residences. About 50 people were evacuated by helicopter.
Rescuers from Los Angeles, the Coast Guard and the National Guard are expected to reinforce in the coming hours.
According to some reports, more than 160 people were transported to hospitals for storm-related injuries. A group of 300 people is stuck in Romero Canyon east of Santa Barbara.
Police described the ground situation as a “World War I battlefield scene”.
Car-sized rocks hit the hills and broke the roads.
A local official explained that rescuers will first try to determine if survivors are stuck in the structures destroyed. Many of the homes that have been destroyed or heavily damaged are in areas that are currently inaccessible.
Most of the victims lost their lives in Montecito. This posh enclave of some 9,000 people, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to stars like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe.
“We are sad to announce that 13 deaths are confirmed after the storm that went through the area last night,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference.
A 14-year-old girl covered in mud was rescued on Tuesday, after being trapped for several hours in a collapsed house in Montecito.
Twenty people are hospitalized, including four who are in critical condition.
The SBCFD tweeted that it was using dogs to look for possible victims in a place where there were several houses before heavy rains fell and caused landslides.
It also posted on Twitter account several pictures showing mud-swept neighborhoods.
Highway 101, which runs along the Pacific coast, was particularly inaccessible for about fifty kilometers.
“The firefighters saved a 14-year-old girl who was stuck for several hours in a destroyed house in Montecito,” they added.
Heavy rains fell early Tuesday morning on the Santa Ynez Mountains, which have recently been ravaged by fires. The rains caused a monstrous mudslide that swept everything in its path. Some victims said they were woken up in the middle of the night by a dull rumble similar to that of a freight train.
It was the first time in ten months that such heavy rains fell on the region.
Downtown San Francisco received a rain record of 80 mm on Monday, breaking the old mark of 1872. Ventura County received the largest amount of rain, 130 millimeters, according to the Los Angeles Weather Services.
Rescue teams removed debris from several roads in the Los Angeles area, including on Coastal Highway 101 where a 50-kilometer stretch was closed for some time in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.