At least 20 people are dead and four others unaccounted for after mudslides buried parts of Montecito, Calif., and the surrounding area earlier in January, The Sacramento Bee reports.
Weeks of wildfires had burned off most of the vegetation from hills throughout Ventura County. Heavy rains swept the exposed soil off the high ground and carried it along with boulders, trees and debris through residential areas, completely sweeping away at least 73 homes, according to The Las Angeles Times.
— CNN (@CNN) January 13, 2018
The White House released a statement on the disaster Monday.
“The President has been briefed and will continue to monitor the mudslides in California. The President and First Lady extend their deepest sympathies to the families affected, their appreciation for the first responders saving lives, and their prayers for those who remain missing,” the statement said.
A candlelight vigil was held at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse late Sunday evening for the people killed as a result of the mudslides. The event took place hours after authorities announced they were changing from search and rescue to search and recovery as finding survivors buried in the sludge grows increasingly unlikely, The Sacramento Bee reports.
The devastation is on a higher level compared to other natural disasters, according to Santa Barbara County Public Works deputy director Chris Sneddon.
“In wind storms, the power lines are down. In rain, the sewers may clog,” Sneddon told The LA Times. “This is impacting everything: gas, power, sewer, communications, and roads. And we have a high level of damage in a concentrated area.”
Heavy equipment is working to clear tons of mud and debris from roads, highways and structures.
California’s 2017 fire season set record for the destruction and scale of its fire, and may set more after the price tag of every fire is counted. The Thomas Fire, which ranks as California largest fire on record, reached full containment Friday after burning about 440 square miles around Montecito. The blaze started more than a month prior on Dec. 4.
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