California rescuers search for victims of deadly mudslides

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(Reuters) – The search for victims of last week’s deadly Southern California mudslides pushed into Monday, with hundreds of rescue workers with dogs and scanners hunting for four people still listed as missing after the rain-driven slides that killed 20 people.

Emergency officials said hopes were diminishing that they would pull more survivors from the ravaged landscape of hardened muck, boulders and twisted debris left behind by the Tuesday mudslides that scoured a landscape already left barren by last year’s record-setting wildfires.

“We’re still out there with search and rescue crews who will continue to work until we can account for those four still missing,” Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson said in a phone interview.

The mudslides that scoured the affluent community of Montecito, 85 miles (137 km) northwest of Los Angeles, caused the greatest loss of life from a California mudslide in at least 13 years.

Ten people perished in January 2005 when a hillside saturated by weeks of torrential rains collapsed in the seaside hamlet of La Conchita, just 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Montecito, burying more than a dozen homes in seconds.

A search and rescue dog is guided through properties after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. January 12, 2018. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

The White House on Monday said that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the situation.

“The President and First Lady extend their deepest sympathies to the families affected, their appreciation for the first responders saving lives, and their prayers for those who remain missing,” the White House said in a statement.

Another 900 emergency personnel arrived this weekend to join the relief effort conducted by more than 2,100 personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross.

The destruction covered 30 square miles (78 square km), leaving 65 single-family homes demolished and more than 450 others damaged. Nearly 30 commercial properties were damaged or destroyed, officials said.

As a precaution against the possibility of further slides, officials have ordered residents in most of the southeastern corner of Montecito to leave their homes for what was likely to be one or two weeks.

Reporting by Scott Malone in BostonEditing by Chizu Nomiyama

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