First Responders Search For Survivors After Deadly California Mudslides

Bulgaria Hundreds of Rescuers Look for Survivors and Victims after the Muddy Landslides in California

"Right now, of the entire debris flow area, we have covered 75 percent with the primary search and 25 percent have had a secondary search", Amber Anderson, public information officer with Santa Barbara Fire, told HuffPost. "It was activated at the appropriate time actually when the event was occurring", Brown said.

Another was James Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before with his wife, Alice, of more than 50 years.

"They were in a voluntary evacuation area so they figured they were OK", said Weimer.

"That's always our mentality: 'Hey, we're going to find someone alive, '" Deputy Dan Page, chief of the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, told the AP. At least 17 people died, and more than 100 homes were destroyed in the slides.

Another victim was identified Thursday as Montecito man Peter Fleurat, according to his niece. "We are the lucky ones", he said, shaking his head with the knowledge that one stray boulder on a different trajectory could have taken out his hillside home.

Josephine Gower, 69. Described as "life of the party", devoted mother and animal lover. She was taken away on a stretcher.

"There are people who are missing family members".

Power, water, and gas are unavailable in the area, sending Montecito into the "Stone Age", the Times notes.

The region's hillsides were already scorched from last month's Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in state history, which made the area more susceptible to flooding because of the lost vegetation.

Crews have worked day and night facing hard conditions, digging through a thick sludge 15 feet deep or more, as well as downed trees, boulders, loose ground and even buried swimming pools, which can pose a threat to rescuers who can't see what's under their feet.

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It was left covered with thick muck, boulders, wrecked cars, splintered lumber and tree limbs in a scene Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown likened to a World War I battlefield.

Two days after a series of Southern California mudslides killed at least 17 in Montecito, officials issued new mandatory evacuations for parts of the city so crews could focus on rescue and cleanup efforts.

Ron Werft, president of Cottage Health, a hospital in Santa Barbara that has treated those injured in the mudslides, said the hospital had to shuttle personnel by boat and by air as a result of the closing of the 101, a crucial north-south artery.

The mud and debris overwhelmed many homes and wiped some of them out.

But there were also glimmers of optimism amid the fury of the flood.

The sound of working construction equipment could be heard nearby as backhoes dug up the debris.

Oprah Winfrey posted a video on social media of her trudging through the mud in the yard of her Montecito home. "We don't know where it came from, but we got it out, got the mud out of its mouth".

"I just want to find my friend", Brewer said, in tears.

NBC News couldn't immediately verify his account. While the work continued, Montecito residents watched with frustration. "My neighbor's house, devastated".

But it failed to cause any major damage in Montecito, with many deciding to it was safe to ignore warnings this time, only to be proven tragically wrong. But fewer than a fifth of those who were ordered to evacuate did so, authorities said.

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