Homes have been swept from their foundations and at least 13 people have died after heavy rain sent both mud and boulders flying down hills that were stripped of vegetation by southern California’s recent wildfires on the 9th January.
Due to blocked roads, rescue crews had to use helicopters in order to lift people to safety, while firefighters ploughed through waist-high mud to pull a 14-year-old girl covered in mud away from the ruins of a home in Montecito, north-west of Los Angeles, where she had been trapped for several hours. The girl was eventually taken away on a stretcher.
The majority of the deaths are believed to have taken place in Montecito, a notably wealthy enclave that hosts several high profile celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe, according to David Villalobos, who is a Santa Barbara County spokesman. At least 25 people have been injured from the mudslides.
Numerous houses have been destroyed in the wake of the mudslides, whole residents have been unaccounted for in the neighbourhoods that are have been made hard to reach due to downed trees and power lines, according to Villalobos. In some places, the mud was reportedly up to 5ft (1.5m) deep.
In the dead of night, the mud was unleashed by flash flooding in the steep Santa Ynez Mountains, which have been left scarred by the recent fires. Burned-over zones are more suspect to destructive mudslides as scorched earth doesn’t absorb water well at all, while the land is also easily eroded when there are no shrubs.