Death tolls rises to 17, 13 still missing after California mudslides

Published: 11 January 2018 Image credit: Reuters


The death toll from southern California’s catastrophic mudslides has risen to 17, with US authorities warning the number is expected to increase.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters the tragic news late on Wednesday afternoon, that two more bodies had been found by rescue crews.

“There are still 13 reported missing persons cases,” Sheriff Brown said.

The muddy deluge caused by heavy rain has destroyed more than 100 homes, damaging hundreds of other buildings and injuring 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.

Local Santa Barbara resident Charles Stoop said the magnitude of damage is “worse because of the fires,” referring to the devastating bushfires that ravaged the area last month.

The blazes wiped out of root vegetation, contributing to the instability of the soil and its inability to absorb moisture, priming the area for the catastrophic mudslides.

“This has happened before but I think it's worse because of the fire, because of all the burnt. There's more debris than normal. I think all the smoke and the ash. So it just takes time,” Mr Stoop said.

US media has reported that nearly 30,000 people were ordered to evacuate the area over the weekend ahead of the predicted storm, however many residents chose to stay inside their homes.