18 dead, 5 missing in Southern California mudslides

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Secondary searches of damaged structures were under way.

In addition, the current drought in Southern California only makes the potential for more mudslides worse, Luke Whelan wrote in Mother Jones magazine.

As many as 24 people remain unaccounted for, said Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters.

The catastrophe struck on Tuesday after heavy downpours drenched the area near Montecito, where vegetation that normally would have soaked up heavy rainfall had been stripped a month ago by the largest wildfire in California's recorded history. At least 28 people were injured and crews performed dozens of rescues.

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The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed. The house was flattened hours earlier by the deadly storm-triggered mudslide that ravaged the Montecito area. "I just love this place", she said.

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Rebecca Riskin, the founder of Riskin Partners, was killed when mudslides ripped through Montecito. She posted a video to her Instagram page showing the level of damage around her home.

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

Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets plowed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 15 feet (4.6 m) of mud, emergency officials said.

The number of confirmed fatalities remains at 17.

At least 17 people are dead, including a 3-year-old girl, after mudslides tore through Southern California Tuesday, upending homes and tearing families apart.

On Thursday, Santa Barbara sheriff Bill Brown said of the missing, "We are certainly searching for a miracle right now".

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On Friday, the estimated number of missing people was down to five, after an estimate of 43 on Thursday.

- In the dark of night, Thomas Tighe saw two vehicles slowly being swept away by a river of mud and debris flowing down the road in front of his house in Montecito, California.

My attractive home town, just after getting through weeks of wild fire, has been hit by a major storm. Days before the mudslides, the county issues repeated warnings on social media, news media and emails about the potential for mudslides during the major storm. "... We didn't take it serious (ly) enough".

Authorities also say only a small percentage of residents heeded mandatory and voluntary evacuation warnings. Klein-Rothschild is the Deputy Director of the Santa Barbara County Health Department.

They slogged through ooze and poked long holes into the mud on Wednesday as they searched for victims a day after the massive debris flow passed through.

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