At Least 17 Are Dead After Heavy Mudslides in Southern California

At least 17 people, including children, were killed in mudslides in southern California this week, CNN reports. 84-year-old Roy Rohter, a headmaster and founder of a Catholic school, is one of the known deceased. As of Wednesday, rescue forces are still searching for endangered people, as more than a dozen are missing. 

Heavy rain began early on Tuesday in Santa Barbara County, leading to streams of mud reaching homes in the seaside area Montecito, which was also affected by last year's Californian wildfires. As reported by the New York Times, Santa Barbara County sheriff Bill Brown said on Wednesday, "Hundreds of people have been rescued and evacuated, many of them having to be hoisted out of the area by our aircraft."

At least 300 homes in Montecito have been damaged and 28 people are known to have injuries, but first responders in a helicopter succeeded in rescuing Montecito residents who found themselves trapped in the area by debris. 

Despite the mudslides trapping residents in homes, Santa Barbara had issued a mandatory evacuation for 7,000 people before the rainstorm. Evacuated residents in Carpinteria, Montecito and Goleta live near areas destroyed by wildfires. 

Among the rescued was a 14-year-old girl who was found trapped inside her Montecito home alone. Some other homes on the block were ripped from their foundations as a result of the storm and mudflow. The sight mirrored that of single-story homes that were now completely separate from foundations.

Rescuers also haven't been immune to the natural disaster's dangers. Speaking to The Associated Press, Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief, said, "We've gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud. 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."

What with roads resembling messy riverbeds, five highways were closed on Wednesday. The main 101 Freeway will stay closed until at least Monday. 

Montecito is home to famous residents such as Oprah Winfrey, who posted an Instagram video of the minor damage in her backyard.

Our thoughts are with those injured and evacuated as a result of the mudslides. Stay safe!