Death toll rises in California mudslides as rescuers rush to help

17 dead 43 reported missing in Santa Barbara mudslide

Santa Barbara County Fire Dept

For many this was the second time in two months after fires ravaged the area last month.

The storm is slated to move inland throughout the day Tuesday, with rain expected to end in Los Angeles around dinner time.

Most of the deaths occurred in and around Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles, as homes were wiped away by mudflows after devastating wildfires left charred hillsides without vegetation cover to hold the deluge.

Southern California Public Radio reported that "only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning", though the disaster primarily struck an area that was not under mandatory evacuation.

Santa Barbara County fire spokesperson Mike Eliason said "multiple rescues from vehicles and structures are underway", adding they've already received a number of missing persons reports.

At least thirteen people have been killed after a powerful rainstorm triggered flash flooding and catastrophic mudslides in southern California.

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Rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from rooftops because trees and power lines blocked roads.

Rescue services assisted at least 50 people in the Montecito area. Marco Ferrel said he ran home after he heard rumbling and found four feet of mud counter-high throughout his house.

In an interview with CBS on Wednesday morning, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said officials are continuing to work to identify and rescue those who are trapped in areas they haven't been able to reach yet.

"We realise that this is going to be a long and hard journey for all of us and our community", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Gigi Hadid were among those who live in the coastal city where the nearby 101 Freeway turned into a muddy river, reported ABC News. The threat of mudslides prompted the county to order 7,000 residents to leave their homes before the rains came and to urge 23,000 others to evacuate voluntarily.

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