Deadly mudslides hit parts of California this week devastating entire communities and wreaking havoc on areas still recovering from deadly wildfires. The death toll from the slides currently stands at 17.
The mudslides were triggered by a heavy downpour early on Tuesday. Residents describe the sound of the mudslides and the speed with which they moved through neighborhoods. “Seemed like just heavy rain,” Ben Hyatt of Montecito, California, said. “Five minutes later, I heard a loud whish sound. Mud came in an instant, like a dam breaking.”
Residents describe only having seconds to escape. A family ran into their house just as boulders, pushed by the mud, busted through the walls. They ran up to the second floor of their home but were followed closely by up to 9 feet of mud. With nowhere to go, they crawled on their roof and awaited rescue.
Some 500 rescuers, along with search dogs and helicopters, were using thermal-imaging equipment to find victims and survivors in mud that was waist-high. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, “We realize that this is going to be a long and difficult journey for all of us and our community.”
One hundred single-family homes were destroyed and hundreds of other buildings were damaged. In addition to the 17 fatalities, 28 people were injured, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Forty-eight people are still missing at this hour.
The disaster came on the heels of a violent rainstorm that dropped 6 inches of rain onto areas of northwest Los Angeles.