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Thousands Gather In Prayer Vigil For California Mudslide Victims

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

Thousands of people gathered Sunday night in prayer in a candlelight vigil for the 20 people killed by last week’s massive mudslides in Southern California.

The mourners gathered for the vigil service outside the Santa Barbara County courthouse, joining together in prayer and leaving flowers and lit prayer candles at a memorial for the 20 victims discovered thus far, according to the Associated Press. County officials addressed the service, encouraging the citizens of Santa Barbara to unite in their grief and to support those who have lost loved ones in the flooding.

“Tonight, we need to mourn,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams said, according to the AP. “It is breathtakingly horrible. Our community is going through something it has never gone through.”

The mourners paid tribute to several families who lost multiple members in the mudslides, including the family of Pinit Sutthithepa, who was killed in the mudslide along with his father-in-law and his 6-year-old son. His 2-year-old daughter, Lydia, remains missing.

Several church congregations joined the mourners in spirit Sunday, as many congregants whose churches are in the Montecito evacuation area attended services in Santa Barbara and other towns close by. Churchgoers, like the mourners at the courthouse, joined together in prayer for the families affected by the mudslides and held candlelight vigils of their own.

“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by this disaster. It is truly awful,” Hannah Miller, a congregant of Trinity Episcopal Church,  said according to the AP. “We can just pray they find those poor missing people.”

The mudslides began Jan. 9, caused by the effects of a winter storm compounded by the aftermath of Southern California wildfires that left the region primed for flooding and mudslides. The mudslides damaged more than 460 homes, obliterated 65, and completely shutdown U.S. freeway 101, which is the only major highway between Santa Barbara and eastern California towns.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m scared of Mother Nature right now,” Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said in her address to the vigil, according to the AP.

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