8 dead in California mudslides as rain follows forest fires

At least eight people were killed and homes were swept from their foundations Tuesday as heavy rain sent mud and boulders sliding down hills stripped of vegetation by Southern California’s recent wildfires.

Rescue crews used helicopters to lift people to safety because of blocked roads, and firefighters slogged through waist-high mud to pull a muck-covered 14-year-old girl out of the ruins of a home in Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, where she had been trapped for hours.

“I thought I was dead for a minute there,” the girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.

Five of the bodies were found in and around Montecito, Santa Barbara County Fire Department Capt. Dave Zaniboni said. The wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres.

Several houses were destroyed, and residents were unaccounted for in neighbourhoods hard to reach because of downed trees and power lines, he said. The mud was reported to be up to 1.5 metres deep in places.

California mudslides

In this photo provided by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, firefighters successfully rescue a 14-year-old girl, second from right, after she was trapped for hours inside a destroyed home in Montecito, Calif. on Tuesday. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

“We’re performing multiple rescues. There will be more,” Zaniboni said, adding that some of those brought to safety were buried in mud. There was a backlog of callers requesting help.

North also getting walloped with rain

Sally Brooks said a “boulder slide” occurred outside her home in nearby Carpinteria in the dead of night.

“We were laying in bed listening to the rain, and out of nowhere our bed just started shaking, and we could hear just this, like, thunder,” she told KTLA-TV.

Photos posted on social media showed upside-down cars along debris-clogged roads and mud waist-deep in living rooms.

California Storms

A rescue team removes its boat after a swift water rescue in the Los Angeles River early Tuesday at Lake Balboa in Los Angeles. Crews rescued residents from inundated homes Tuesday as mud and debris from wildfire-scarred hillsides flowed through neighbourhoods. (Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)

Forecasters said the maximum rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. near the Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria areas of Santa Barbara County. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received two centimetres in 15 minutes.

Crews worked to clear debris from roads across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, including a key stretch of U.S. 101 that was brought to a standstill along the border of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Nearly 30 miles of the highway were shut down at point.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for about 700 homes in sections of Los Angeles County that burned last month in the biggest wildfire on record in California.

The storm walloped much of the state with damaging winds and thunderstorms. Downtown San Francisco got a record eight centimetres of rain on Monday, smashing the old mark set in 1872.

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CBC | World News