California police hope for "miracle" to find missing in mudslide

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It was another hard turn for those living in the Southern California town that has been subject to repeated evacuation orders in recent weeks, first because of a monster wildfire last month, then because of downpours and mudslides.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted the state's request for expanded federal disaster assistance in response to the devastating mudslides that have impacted Santa Barbara County and the community of Montecito, according to Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Officials have now confirmed the mudslides have claimed at least 15 lives, while dozens more are missing.

In the upmarket neighbourhood of Montecito, some homes were swept from their foundations.

Fourteen beaches in Santa Barbara County are closed to swimmers because of contamination from deadly floods in the coastal foothills.

By the time tons of mud and debris started flowing down fire-scorched hillsides and into Montecito neighborhoods early Tuesday, it was too late for most residents still inside their homes, and there was no way to escape.

The victims who died during the storm and mudflows early Tuesday range in age from 3 to 89.

Tom Fayram, a deputy public works director, said that whether the county issues mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, they should be taken seriously.

"I told her to stay on the second floor but she went downstairs and opened the door and just got swept away", her son, Hayden Gower, told NBC affiliate KSBY. Roy Rohter's wife was rescued and hospitalized in stable condition, but Roy Rohter did not survive, Van Hecke told ABC News. "Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters' friendship and generosity". "Why didn't she stay upstairs?"

The statement says Riskin was an "exceptional woman" who had exuded strength, grace and elegance.

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"We do understand that the closure of Highway 101 is causing great hardships for many, many people", Pontes said. A third sister and the girls' mother are now being treated in the ICU, the family said.

In addition to the dead and injured, 65 houses have been destroyed while another 462 sustained damage.

"It is a little frustrating", said Sarah Ettman, whose home was undamaged and whose section of town still had gas and electricity.

Aerial footage over Montecito showed a contrast of widespread damage next to homes completely untouched by the disaster.

From above, thrashed areas of town appeared awash in a sea of mud, with only the tallest trees standing and some homes buried up to their roofs.

Local fire officials reported rescuing several people in the area, including a mother and her daughter who were caked in mud. The number provided by county officials earlier in the day was eight missing.

The Santa Barbara sheriff released the names of the dead, which included David Cantin, the father of a 14-year-old girl who was heavily caked in mud when she was pulled from the ruins of her home after a dramatic six-hour rescue.

Winter rainstorms in Southern California cause deadly mudslides. We had helicopters doing hoisting operations to rescue people that we were aware of as well continue to look for people who we are - were unaware of.

U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito.

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