13 dead in California after deadly mudslides
As yesterday’s downpour continued to bring much needed rainfall to drought stricken California, it also brought with it deadly mudslides. At least 13 people were killed after massive amounts of mud and boulders were sent plummeting down hills that had already been affected by the recent wildfires. In addition, dozens of houses were completely destroyed, leaving many without any home.
Emergency personnel had to use helicopters to save more than 50 people from their rooftops, due to a large amount of fallen power lines and destroyed trees, which had blocked the streets. Many people were left waiting for hours in the rubble, waiting for emergency services to rescue them. A 14-year-old girl was pulled from the remind of her home, which had collapses due to the mudslides. Trapped for hours, she was finally rescued by firefighters. She told KNBC-TV, “I thought I was dead for a minute here.”
Most of the deaths have occurred in the city of Montecito, which is part of Santa Barbara county. The first confirmed death was Roy Rohter, a former real estate broker who was the founder of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura. The city is known for being the wealthiest city in the county, and is home to various celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. Over 20 people have also been hospitalized, with several being listed as “severely critical” by authorities. There are still many people who are unaccounted for, as emergency services are still searching through the destruction. Due to the dangerous conditions caused by the rain, it is proving difficult for them to safely search for anyone trapped.
Santa Barbara Sherrif Bill Brown told news reporters the scene, “…looked like a World War I battlefield. It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars, lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes, let alone to get people out of them.”
With this being the first major rainfall California has received in over 8 months, authorities were preparing for the possibility of severe flooding, but they were not prepared for this magnitude of destruction. The storm dumped about 3 inches of rain, with other areas getting even more. Evacuations were issued for those in neighborhoods who were affected by the wildfires, but only 10-15 percent of people followed them. For those who did evacuate, upon returning to their neighborhood, they found total devastation. Marshall Miller, one of the people who heeded the evacuation warnings, said, “It was sobering” once seeing the state of his home.
The scene of rescue workers searching through the ruins of the homes shows them absolutely black from the mud and muck they have to wade through. Some of the gas mains had popped, so they could hear hissing noises from the leaking gas. Power lines had also been ripped down, with high-voltage power lines exposed to the elements. Rescue efforts continue to be underway, in hopes of finding any others who may be trapped. With the storm seeming to have finished, conditions will continue to improve so rescue can be safely conducted.