17 missing after California mudslides - KaidulAnxious family members are awaiting word on loved ones as rescue crews search grimy debris and ruins for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides in Southern California destroyed">

17 missing after California mudslides

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Anxious family members are awaiting word on loved ones as rescue crews search grimy debris and ruins for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides in Southern California destroyed an estimated 100 houses, swept cars to thedata-reactid=”49″>

Anxious family members are awaiting word on loved ones as rescue crews search grimy debris and ruins for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides in Southern California destroyed an estimated 100 houses, swept cars to the beach and left at least 17 victims dead.

The drenching storm that triggered the disaster gave way to sunny skies, as hundreds of searchers carefully combed a messy landscape strewn with hazards.

“We've gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud,” said Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief. “The mud is acting like a candy shell on ice cream. It's crusty on top but soft underneath, so we're having to be very careful.”

Teams rescued three people on Wednesday, but they also discovered two more bodies, raising the death count to 17, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. Seventeen people were reported missing.

The deluge destroyed 100 houses and damaged 300 others, Santa Barbara County authorities said. Eight commercial properties were destroyed and 20 damaged.

Some 500 firefighters and other rescue workers were searching debris spread across a wide swath of Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

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Only an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of residents fled when ordered and much of the damage occurred where evacuations were voluntary.

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