Montecito, CA – The death toll in Tuesday’s mudslides following heavy rain in the Thomas Fire areas, has risen to at least 17. More than a dozen people are missing after mudslides swept away about 100 houses.
The authorities said 28 people were injured, four of them critically. At least 300 houses were damaged in the Montecito area and many more were listed as “threatened.”
Santa Barbara County sheriff, Bill Brown, said Wednesday afternoon that hundreds of people had been rescued and evacuated, many of them hoisted out of the area by aircraft. He added, “this is a massive operation, and as we transition from a rescue to a recovery mode, we realize this is going to a long and difficult journey”.
The joint recovery effort involves 14 helicopters and nearly 500 personnel — including firefighters and emergency workers from several counties.
Rescue workers made progress Wednesday, clearing roads that had trapped residents in the area around Romero Canyon, northeast of Montecito. Water mains and smaller pipes that provide the area with water have been damaged, prompting officials to warn residents to boil tap water before using it for cooking or drinking.
The LA Times reports that Montecito is home to mansions owned by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, but most of the damage occurred to more modest homes in the flatlands.
The 101 Freeway through Santa Barbara County is expected to be closed through at least Thursday night due to massive debris dumped on the freeway.
The Thomas Fire burned over 280,000 acres last month spanning Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and became California’s largest on record.