MONTECITO, California, January 12, 2018 (ENS) – First the worst fire in California history, then torrential rains, have brought down whole hillsides in Montecito, an upscale village in Santa Barbara County. It is the wealthiest community in the county, but money could not buy safety for dozens of residents.
The mudslides have left 17 people dead and at least eight missing, according to state emergency officials.
The cause of death for all decedents will be listed as “Multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire,” said the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office, which today released the names of the 17 people, aged three to 89, who lost their lives in the mudslides, all from Montecito. See the list here.
As the largest wildfire in California state history, the month-long Thomas Fire, still burned nearby, heavy rainfall created devastating mudslides in Santa Barbara County, just north of Los Angeles.
The mudslides now cover a 30-square-mile area, and the threat of additional mudslides will continue over the next several days.
Some areas are without power, water or gas and the search for the missing continues.
More than 100 homes have been destroyed by the fast-moving floods of mud and debris, and in the affected area coastal Highway 101 looks like a river of mud.
More than 29,000 people are under the evacuation orders which could last for at least a week.
Evacuation orders were issued for areas below the Thomas, Whittier, Sherpa and Rey Fire Burn Areas beginning at noon on Monday, January 8, but only about 15 percent of residents are known to have evacuated. Exhausted from previous evacuations to escape the fires, some residents decided to take their chances rather than leave their homes yet again.
Oprah Winfrey, who lives in the stricken area, told Ellen DeGeneres on her show Thursday that while walking the neighborhood she saw some of her neighbors homes were “gutted,” while others were “gone, just gone.”
Winfrey said that because her house is located on top of a knoll, she feels safe. She has been informed that she wouldn’t have water or gas, but she still feels grateful.
“I am blessed and I am going to do whatever I can for the rest of the community,” Winfrey said, “and we all just love the firefighters.”
Firefighters and other emergency officials have been walking the affected neighborhoods, searching for survivors who may be trapped in mud-filled homes. A 14-year-old girl was rescued on Wednesday.
Overnight, some 40 people stayed in two Red Cross shelters. Trained Red Cross disaster workers are providing food and health and mental health services.