At Least 13 People Are Dead After Mudslides Hit A Southern California Beach Community
At least 13 people died Tuesday after mudslides triggered by strong storms hurled rocks and debris down fire-ravaged hillsides and into Southern California neighborhoods.
Officials said dozens of people were rescued from the torrent of water and mud and crews were continuing to search the hilly, coastal community of Montecito and surrounding areas for at least two dozen others still reported missing. A "significant number" of people were also injured in the slides, which began early Tuesday morning, said Santa Barbara County Police Chief Bill Brown that afternoon.
"It looked like a World War I battlefield," Brown said. "It was a carpet of mud and debris. There were boulders, downed power lines, wrecked cars... The mud was knee-deep in the roadways and deeper in canyons. It made access to people very difficult."
About 300 people were still trapped in their homes in Romero Canyon, a rural neighborhood tucked in the hills southwest of Santa Barbara, and are "completely cut off," Brown said.
"We're just focused on making sure people are still alive right now," he emphasized.
Several dozen homes were torn from their foundations or severely damaged, and dozens of people were unaccounted for in neighborhoods near the hills recently scarred by the Thomas Fire. The fire ignited in December and became the state's largest on record, tearing through more than 281,000 acres. It is still not fully contained.