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Hard search goes on in California mudslides

Hard search goes on in California mudslides

"We've got a window that's closing, but we're still very optimistic".

The search for survivors of the deadly mudslides in parts of California's scenic Santa Barbara County continued Sunday even as hopes dwindled to find anyone else alive, officials said. Earlier, officials said just eight people were unaccounted for.

The disaster struck on Tuesday after heavy rains soaked the area near Montecito, where vegetation had been denuded by the largest wildfire in California's history.

Secondary searches of damaged structures were under way. Although search efforts are underway, Sheriff's detectives are actively working on locating persons reported to the Emergency Operations Center and Santa Barbara County Public Safety Dispatch Center.

It was another frustrating turn for those living in the Southern California town that has been subject to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, first because of a monster wildfire last month, then because of downpours and mudslides.

"We have to do whatever it takes", said Capt. Tom Henzgen, leader of a team from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Nearly the entire community, about 10,000 people, are under a mandatory evacuation order that could last for up to two weeks, Santa Barbara County's fire chief said.

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In one of the worst-hit areas of Montecito, mud blew through doors and windows, filling the interiors of houses with sludge and debris. The walls at one end of a home had disappeared, leaving its roof hanging precariously.

The backbreaking work went on in the summerlike weather that has made the stretch of Santa Barbara County coast about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles a haven for the wealthy, celebrities and tourists.

The cause of death for most of the victims will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said Thursday.

Sodden hillsides gave way, unleashing a torrent of mud, water, uprooted trees and boulders onto the valley below and killing victims aged from 3 to 89.

Cal Fire urged residents to use caution when returning and said that many areas are still without access to power and gas.

At least 25 other people were injured, authorities said at an afternoon press conference.


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