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Tuesday, 16 January 2018 01:00

California gets hit by deadly mudslides

California gets hit by deadly mudslides Credits: CNN.com

Heavy rainfall caused rivers of mud and debris to run down from hillsides in Santa Barbara County, California, last Tuesday, killing several people and causing extensive damage to infrastructure.

The disaster occurred early Tuesday, January 9, after heavy rains in the area near Montecito, in California's scenic Santa Barbara County, where vegetation had been recently denuded by the Thomas fire, the largest wildfire in California's history. Sodden hillsides gave way, unleashing a torrent of mud, water, uprooted trees and boulders onto the valley below.

The rain fell at more than 1.5 inches per hour at one point early Tuesday in parts of Southern California. About a half inch per hour is enough to start mudslides, said Robbie Monroe of the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The destruction covered 30 square miles (78 square km), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The death toll from the mudslides rose to 19 last Saturday, while emergency crews continue to search for five people still missing. Twenty-eight people were hurt in Santa Barbara County, according to officials.

More than 3,000 emergency personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross have joined the relief efforts in the area since last Tuesday, rescuing dozens of people. The US Coast Guard said it used helicopters on Tuesday to collect people from rooftops.

Floodwaters and mudslides destroyed 100 homes and damaged another 300 residences in the County. According to officials, U.S. Highway 101, a major north-south artery that carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast each day, will remain closed indefinitely in parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara, as cleaning up the muddy debris that cover it has proven more difficult than expected.

Before the storm hit, Santa Barbara issued mandatory evacuations for 7,000 people in parts of Carpinteria, Montecito and Goleta, which are below areas scorched by wildfires, according to county spokeswoman Gina DePinto. "While some residents cooperated with the evacuations, many did not. Many chose to stay in place," said Brown, the sheriff.

Montecito and Carpinteria are especially vulnerable to mudslides because the steep terrain in some places goes from thousands of feet above sea level to sea level in "a matter of just a few miles," said Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director with Santa Barbara County.

Sources: CNN, Reuters

Read 713 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 14:38

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