17 Dead In California Mudslides

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The search for those missing during California's mudslides has continued as the death toll rises.

At least eight people were missing on Jan. 11 after mudslides and boulders destroyed homes in Santa Barbara County, reports CNN. At least 17 people have been reported dead in the natural disaster.

"This is going to be a long and difficult journey for all of us," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, according to NBC News.

Floodwaters and mudslides have destroyed 65 homes in the county and damaged 462 others, according to spokeswoman Susan Klien-Rothschild. Twenty commercial buildings were also damaged, and eight were destroyed.

"Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged," Brown said.

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Debris from the mudslides has also caused parts of major thoroughfare U.S. 101 to be shut down. The closed sections of freeway are not expected to reopen until Jan. 14.

Authorities had reportedly warned residents to evacuate, but fewer than one-fifth of those ordered to evacuate before the floods did so.

Residents in the area have been advised to boil water before drinking it because of damage to the water supply infrastructure, reports NPR. Power outages have also affected more than 6,000 homes and businesses mainly in the Montecito area.

Search crews have done a primary search of 75 percent of the debris for survivors so far as of Jan. 10, with over 500 first responders and 10 dogs searching the area.

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"We still have to have hope and believe that people can be found," said Curt Pickering, who lives in Montecito. "There's dogs everywhere searching, but I truly believe we are going to find more people alive."

In one story from the mudslides, a man rescued a baby from the debris, saving her life by pulling her out of the mud, according to Time.

Montecito resident Berkeley Johnson described hearing the faint sound of a baby crying in the dark as he was on his way to check on his neighbor. Johnson alerted nearby firefighters and they were able to dig the infant from the muck.

"We dug down and found a little baby," an emotional Johnson recalled. "We don't know where it came from, but we got it out, got the mud out of its mouth."

Johnson said that the baby girl, whose age is unclear, was tangled in roots and buried 4 feet deep.

"The girl's OK," said Johnson. "It's unbelievable. There's no way that we should have found that child, and probably 15 more minutes, it wouldn’t have been alive because it was cold and it had been there for a while."

It's unclear whether the baby has been reunited with her family.

Sources: NBC News, CNN, Time, NPR / Featured Image: U.S. Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: U.S. Department of Defense, A. Dombrowski/Flickr

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