Priority: Finding Mudslide Survivors
Rescuers continue to search for survivors amid piles of debris following the mudslides that swept through Santa Barbara County, California.
Rescue teams completed a primary search of 75% of the debris field, and more than 500 first responders and 10 dogs were looking for victims in Santa Barbara County.
In a race against time, the rescuers used helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to look for survivors.
“Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told CNN affiliate KCAL.
In addition, the local authorities announced a mandatory evacuation in the disaster-hit area to avoid more casualties.
Sheriff Brown told residents, “We know that this a terribly inconvenient development but it is also incredibly necessary.”
All the victims of the disaster are residents of Santa Barbara County.
Officials disclosed the names of the 17 people killed including four children. The victims ranged from 3 years old to 89 years old. The mudslides also injured nearly 30 people and destroyed about 100 homes in the Montecito area between the Pacific Ocean and the Los Padres National Forest.
One of the victims was the founder of a Roman Catholic school. Roy Rohter, 84, founder of the Saint Augustine Academy, a private Catholic school in Ventura. He was killed on Tuesday when a mudslide swept him from his Montecito home.
Other victims included Rebecca Riskin, a 61-year-old retired professional ballerina. She was founder of Riskin Partners real estate firm and a nearly 30-year Montecito resident. The businesswoman died in Montecito as a result of the flooding and mudslides in the area.
Others identified by the sheriff’s office included:
Jonathan Benitez, 10
Kailly Benitez, 3
Martin Cabrera-Munoz, 48
Sawyer Corey, 12
John McManigal, 61
Marilyn Ramos, 27
Peerawat Sutthithepn, 6
Richard Taylor, 67
James and Alice Mitchell, 89 and 78 respectively
Peter Fleurat, 73
Mark Montgomery, 54
Caroline Montgomery, 22
The storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday in Southern California. The rain fell at a rate of more than 1.5 inches per hour at one point. The heavy rains triggered rivers of mud that flowed out of control down hillsides, demolishing homes in the seaside community of Montecito.
Mudslides are not uncommon in this area. In January 2005, a landslide struck La Conchita in Ventura County, killing 10 people.