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Days after the disaster, the death toll is up to 17 people with up to 43 still missing
Search efforts in Montecito, Calif., continue following the mudslides that devastated Santa Barbara county Jan. 9. With 17 people now reported in the death doll, the missing persons number could be as high as 43, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. Officials hope that the majority of the unaccounted for people have simply lost touch with their family and friends during the turmoil and will turn up safe soon.
Search and rescue teams continue to scour the neighborhoods where at least 65 homes were destroyed and 446 were damaged. The search team’s mission is made difficult by inaccessible roads covered in debris. Search groups are utilizing all-terrain vehicles, helicopters and travel by foot which has led to multiple reports of searchers falling into manholes and swimming pools hidden by mud. While the teams hope to find survivors, they are utilizing dogs trained to sniff out cadavers are they review the wreckage. The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management cautions that Montecito could be without potable water, electricity and sanitation for an extended period of time.
The rate of rainfall in Southern California Jan. 9 was 18 times more than required to produce debris flow, according to an analysis by ABC News meteorologists. The area of Montecito was particularly vulnerable due to steep terrain that rapidly fluctuates in depth.