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Deadly mudslides follow wildfires in Southern California 

USA: Seventeen people are confirmed dead in Southern California after heavy rains triggered flooding; around 163 people were taken to hospital.

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Damage caused by the deadly mudslides in Montecito on January 9, 2018. At least 17 people have been killed and more than two dozen were injured in the natural disaster. The mudslides were a result of a heavy downpour pounding down on vulnerable land, charred by recent wildfires in the region (image: CrowdSpark/ Alamy Live News)

The flooding and mudslides affected areas denuded by wildfires last month, with heavy rain run-off affecting the community of Montecito, knocking some homes off their foundations; boulders the size of cars were caught up in the flows and blocked roads.

The US Coast Guard rescued and evacuated several victims, including a rooftop rescue of five persons and two dogs in Carpinteria. It also medevaced two adults with reported broken limbs.

California Air National Guardsmen provided SAR support, deploying an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and air crews, along with seven other aircraft and a dozen high-water vehicles. The California National Guard and the 129th Rescue Wing worked closely with the Santa Barbara sheriff’s office during the rescue efforts.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for Montecito, with inhabitants not being allowed to enter the delineated zone. Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara County Health Officer closed several beaches warning of dangerous bacterial levels after they were contaminated with raw sewage and chemicals, saying that nobody should swim in the water. However, it added: “This order does not include the sandy beaches themselves.”

Homes and streets of a neighbourhood affected by the Santa Barbara County mudslides in Santa Barbara, California are shown on January 9, 2018, from the perspective of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew involved in rescuing injured and stranded victims. Coast Guard helicopters were dispatched from Los Angeles-Long Beach and San Diego to assist local first responders with rescue efforts (image: US Coast Guard photo) 

Damage to the water supply in Montecito District was extensive and the authorities were distributing bottled water for residents.

The youngest of the victims was three years old and the oldest 89; the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office listed the cause of death for all 17 fatalities as: “Multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.” 

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