California mudslide devastation seen in satellite photos

Saturday, 13 Jan, 2018

These before and after images show the extent of the damage in Montecito.

"There was evacuation fatigue from the fire", local resident Marco Farrell. A huge police presence keeps out both residents and looters.

Stranded drivers caught up in the rising water levels were being plucked from their vehicles to safer, dryer ground by emergency personnel relying on mostly aviation transportation. The freeway was closed between Highway 150 and Milpas.

The devastation affected an area estimated at 30 square miles, according to Cal Fire. About 65 single-family homes were destroyed and another 446 were damaged. At least two of her family cars were destroyed and she's not sure how her cottage fared. "It's emotional for me to say this, but I think they're gone".

Other victims included a 22-year-old woman who died in the arms of her brother as he frantically tried to save her after their father was swept to his death by the fast-moving river of mud.

For others, the grim reality was just beginning as workmen dug through the debris.

The worst damage was in the community of Montecito, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said, where some homes were knocked off their foundations by the strength of the mudslide. "We've got manpower out here, everybody is searching", said Curt Pickering, Montecito resident.

"You never really know". He said those who perished range in age from three to 89 years old.

The seven missing people included Fabiola Benitez, the mother of Jonathan Benitez, a 10-year-old killed in the flooding. Peerawat's last name was also misspelled by officials, Marshall Taylor said.

The Sputnik news agency quoted County Sheriff Bill Brown as saying, "I'm saddened to report today that another victim was located, bringing the total number of fatal casualties from this tragic incident to 18". But within an hour they said they had made a clerical error, and the actual number of missing was eight.

Hundreds of people have already been rescued, many of whom had to be hoisted out of the mud-filled area by aircraft, officials said.

A backhoe scooped up mud and rocks around buckled and flattened homes, while bulldozers cleared roads of tangled trees, muck and boulders. "Our goal is to actually rescue people". Like many, the couple described hearing explosions during the slide as gas lines ruptured and exploded. They've got power back, limited cell phone service and food for their six dogs and 20 chickens. "It is with heavy hearts we share that our dear friend and partner, Rebecca Riskin, has passed away as a result of the tragic flooding and mudslides in Montecito", the company wrote in a Facebook post. "But they're talking two weeks of closure". The mudslides began raindrops on top of hillsides in the Los Padres National Forest and then gained momentum as they tore downhill through the neighborhoods, picking up ash, dirt and debris along the way. "Financially that's a burden".