Rescuers continue to search for people in rubble of USA mudslide

Phillip Harnsberger crosses through mud from a flooded creek on Sheffield Drive in Montecito Calif

On Friday, the estimated number of missing people was down to five, after an estimate of 43 on Thursday.

In addition, eight commercial buildings were destroyed and 20 were damaged. Rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing.

On the fourth day of search for victims of the southern California mudslides, the death toll has increased to 19 people, the Santa Barbara sheriff's office tells NPR. "We've got all those chickens, which means we've got eggs, and they're flawless".

The message, similar to an Amber Alert for abducted children, was sent about 3:50 a.m. Tuesday to all registered cellphones in areas that were under voluntary and mandatory evacuations because of heavy rains that threatened mudflows in the wake of the Thomas fire, officials said.

The catastrophe struck on Tuesday after heavy downpours drenched the area near Montecito, where vegetation that normally would have soaked up heavy rainfall had been stripped a month ago by the largest wildfire in California's recorded history.

Secondary searches of damaged structures were under way. Bleckel was among those on the missing persons list, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

The mudslides came in the early morning hours of Tuesday, destroying an estimated 65 homes and damaging hundreds of others, the Cal Fire release said.

Santa Barbara officials on January 11 said 17 people died as a result of mudslides and flooding.

The 101, a key north-south route in California, was tentatively scheduled to reopen on Monday, but cleanup efforts have proved more hard than expected, Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Pat McElroy said on Saturday.

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The fire erupted December 4 in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes before it spread into Santa Barbara County and threatened more communities including Montecito.

One of California's most celebrated roads, coastal Highway 101, was partially closed, with mud that was two feet deep in places, while in Montecito, mud reached the roof lines of houses, as residents surveyed their damaged homes.

As the rainwater made its way downhill with gathering force, it pried boulders from the ground and picked up trees and other debris that flattened homes, cars and carried at least one body a mile away.

The area, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities and wealthy Californians, who relish its sense of seclusion and relative proximity to the city.

The cause of death for most of the victims will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said Thursday. He said those who perished range in age from three to 89 years old.

A auto sits in mud and debris after a mudslide on in Montecito, California.

Some areas are without power, water or gas and the search for the missing continues.

The seven missing people included Fabiola Benitez, the mother of Jonathan Benitez, a 10-year-old killed in the flooding.

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