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17 Reported Dead in California Mudslides, Toll Likely to Rise

Recent wildfires destroyed vegetation that would normally prevent massive mudslides.

Updated: Thursday, January 11, 8.40am

It’s been a hellish winter for parts of California.

Torrential downpours hit areas in Santa Barbara County earlier this week, triggering devastating mudslides that have killed at least 17 people as of Thursday morning, with at least another 17 officially reported missing. More than 100 homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged.

“Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Brown told CNN affiliate KCAL.

Firefighters and rescue crews are searching across the hills and among the remains of destroyed homes for those who may have been trapped.

The New York Times is reporting that “the Santa Barbara fire department pulled a 14-year-old girl from the remains of her destroyed home in Montecito. In another instance, a boy was found under a freeway overpass and rescued by firefighters; mud had carried him for hundreds of yards.”

The Coast Guard, National Guard and a search-and-rescue team from nearby Los Angeles County have joined the rescue effort.

The rainstorm has moved out of the California area, but the landscape is strewn with rocks, debris and was “covered shoulder-high in places with mud the consistency of wet cement,” according to the Associated Press.

Most of the casualties are from in and around Montecito, a wealthy area northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres, according to the AP.

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