Five People Missing After California Mudslides; Thomas Fire Finally Out

Erika Holt
January 14, 2018

A family had offered them a room to stay overnight, but then they were looking at spending up to $3,000 a week for a hotel. The uptick in responders comes in conjunction with a more than threefold increase in the number of fire engines also assigned to the incident.

The deluge - which struck Montecito after powerful rainstorms - overturned cars, uprooted trees and sent boulders crashing into homes in the valley below.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving ideal conditions for the latest disaster to unfold.

While in Montecito, mud reached the roof lines of houses, as residents surveyed their damaged homes. At least eight people remain missing.

"Financially that's a burden", she said. "That makes it all the more incomprehensible".

The Thomas Fire - the largest wildfire in California's recorded history - burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month. Crews are still trying to dig the 10,000-person town out from the mudslides that blocked roads, damaged bridges and once again forced dozens of businesses to close in this bucolic seaside community that counts Oprah and Ellen as homeowners.

County officials have already ordered residents in most of the southeastern corner of Montecito to leave their homes for one or two weeks to aid the search and recovery efforts. She had lived in the city for almost 30 years.

Evacuation orders and warnings will be lifted at noon Saturday for several areas of southern Santa Barbara County affected by the flooding and mudslides.

California has been hit with a string of disasters including wildfires, mudslides and a serious flu epidemic.

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The back-to-back disasters have exhausted rescue workers, drained overtime budgets and forced police detectives to set aside their caseloads to run security checkpoints in the evacuation zones. Family celebrations put on hold.

More people in the state are in the hospital with flu-like symptoms, and there's been some shortages of medications, such as Tamiflu, in pharmacies.

One of California's most celebrated roads, coastal Highway 101, was closed in parts of Santa Barbara County where mud was 2 feet deep in parts.

"It's breathtakingly awful out there", said Das Williams, an elected county supervisor who represents Montecito.

Before the news conference had ended, Brown returned to the microphone, and with a happy tone said a phone call had just come in about Keating.

This June 2017 photo provided by Jennifer Ramos Tapia shows, Kaelly Benitez 3, outside her family's home in Montecito, Calif. Authorities said on Thursday night that 43 people were unaccounted for.

The post said she had two children, Julia and Robert, and a husband, Ken Grand. They were swept away by the mud, but the friend was rescued by clinging to a tree near the house, Scott said.

On Thursday, Mr Brown expanded what was known as the public safety exclusion zone to incorporate most of the town.

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