13 Dead as Mudslides Rip Through SoCal Wildfire Scars

Northbound traffic comes to a standstill on Interstate 5 freeway near the rushing water filled Los Angeles river near downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2018. The first significant storm of the season walloped much of California with damaging winds and thunderstorms. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

(CN) – At least 13 people have died and some 25 others are injured in massive mudslides that swept through one Santa Barbara County community early Tuesday morning.

“While we hope it will not, we expect this number will increase as we continue to look for people who are missing and unaccounted for,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

The names of the victims have not been released.

Emergency officials said the debris flow that destroyed several homes in the Montecito community happened around 4 a.m. and swept down to Highway 101.

Search and rescue will continue and emergency personnel completed 50 hoist rescues Tuesday afternoon among other rescues, according to emergency officials at an afternoon press conference. Outside agencies will assist Santa Barbara County officials with search and rescue on Wednesday.

On Monday, evacuation warnings were issued to about 23,000 residents and several thousand more evacuation orders were given to residents by law enforcement.

“While some residents cooperated, many did not. Many chose to stay in place,” said Brown.

Meanwhile, mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for residents in La Tuna Canyon in Los Angeles County. The evacuation orders there impact 23 homes, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A local state of emergency was declared Monday evening and approved by the county’s board of supervisors on Tuesday morning. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office is being updated by the California Office of Emergency Services.

The victims died in mudslides that swept through the community of Montecito early Tuesday morning. The bodies were found in the mud and debris of washed away homes.

Firefighters rescued a 14-year-old girl who was trapped in debris Tuesday morning in the 300 block of Hot Springs Road in Montecito, according to Santa Barbara County public information officer Mike Eliason.

Mudslides have closed off several highways along the Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in areas where the Thomas Fire burned a month ago. The fire-scarred ground has given way to muddy debris on Highway 101 in Ventura and several other major highways, according to Caltrans.

Residents in Los Angeles County were also under mandatory evacuation orders due to possible mudslides in areas burned in December, including the scars of the Skirball Fire that burned near Mulholland Drive and the Creek Fire that burned near Sylmar.

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