California mudslides: four children confirmed victims, hope fades for finding survivors

Published: 12 January 2018 Image credit: Santa Barbara County Air Support Unit Fire

Helicopter footage shows entire neighbourhoods covered in mud

The ages of the victims killed in this week’s catastrophic mudslides in California have been revealed by US authorities, as hope fades for finding any remaining survivors

Four children aged three, six, 10 and 12 are confirmed to have died in the mudslides, along with 13 others aged between 22 and 89.

Eight people are still missing and rescuers are still desperately searching for survivors, however Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that “realistically” they were expecting to find more deceased victims.

"In disaster circumstances there have been many miraculous stories lasting many days and we certainly are searching for a miracle right now," Mr Brown.

The Sheriff’s office has released an official list naming the victims, and said their official causes of death will be listed as “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.”

Last month a series of bushfires ravaged the area and wiped out root vegetation, contributing to the instability of the soil and its inability to absorb moisture – priming the area for the devastating mudslides.

“This has happened before but I think it's worse because of the fire, because of all the burnt,” said local Santa Barbara resident Charles Stoop.

“There's more debris than normal. I think all the smoke and the ash. So it just takes time,” Mr Stoop said.

The muddy deluge has destroyed more than 100 homes, damaged more than 300 other buildings and injured a further 28 people.

A short drive from the centre of Santa Barbara, the small neighbourhood of Montecito, known as an enclave of celebrities and billionaires, was one of the areas worst hit by the mudslides.

Oprah Winfrey has released harrowing footage through her Instagram page, showing the devastation of her and her neighbours’ property.

The caption reads, “Thanks everyone for your prayers and concern. My property is fine. Some mud, and minor damage that pales in comparison to what my neighbors are going thru. #mudslides.”

The 11-second video shows the TV star standing knee-deep in mud, surrounded by debris.

No more rain is predicted for the area over the coming week.