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California mudslide to displace 30,000 persons as death toll hit 17

About 28 persons are injured while 30,000 people are to follow a mandatory evacuation order in a powerful mudslide that has claimed 17 lives in Southern California, authorities reveal.

Southern California is home to celebrities who include Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

 

“We are saddened to report that the death toll has now risen to 17,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters, saying it had been “another extremely challenging day.”

Tuesday’s heavy downpour has raised the level of debris flowing through the hills into Montecito and other towns in Santa Barbara County northwest of Los Angeles. The cities last month experienced wildfires.

“Part of the problem with this is the fire created a situation where the dirt was able to wash down,” said Richard Targonia, a resident of nearby Carpentaria.

“Had we still had all the vegetation on the hills it would not have been as much of an issue,” Targonia said.

“I have lived here my whole life,” said Melissa Ausanka-Crues, 29, a nurse. “My family has had a house here for 30 years and never seen something like this.”

“This is the street in front of our house,” she said. “I don’t know anything about our house yet. I’m heartbroken for our community of Montecito.”

“It’s total. There’s mud inside all the way in. Some of the structure was swept away,” he said, adding the building was now filled with debris and trees.

Sheriff Brown says: “I think most people are really shocked at the extent of the damage and how big the impact was to the area,”

“Although we knew this was coming, you couldn’t help but be amazed at the intensity of the storm and the result of the mudslide and the water that cascaded down the hills.”

A couple, their two children and two dogs were rescued from their rooftop and lifted in a helicopter in baskets according to a video posted by the US Coast Guard.

The slide has cut off access to gas, electricity or water as a gas leak has occurred and repair effort are ongoing.

The customs area in Terminal 2 of the Los Angeles International Airport has been closed due to flood.

The weather service reports that though the downpour has broken January 9, 1980, Palm Springs record of 1.13 inches but has remained light in the desert that coastal area.

 

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