California police hope for "miracle" to find missing in mudslide

There are now five active missing persons cases, Brown said, though that number has continued to fluctuate throughout the week. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped.

Almost 3,400 residents in Montecito are without water or power and over 300 are trapped in their homes as first responders scrambled to conduct rescue work in the wake of the devastating flash floods and deadly mudslides which left at least 15 dead, 25 injured and dozens missing, said County spokeswoman Yaneris Muniz.

"Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Utility trucks crowd the area around Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road as part of the effort to restore services to flood-ravaged Montecito.

Theirs are among the many stories of those who perished and those who managed with inexplicable good fortune to escape the slides in the wealthy enclave of Montecito that is home to a variety of people ranging from captains of industry to those who manicured their lawns. But county emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to use the cellphone push alert system until 3:50 a.m. Tuesday out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

Jim, who worked in labour relations, and Alice, a schoolteacher, had raised their two children in Southern California's Orange County before moving to Montecito in 1995 after retiring.

The immediate areas where people were killed are under mandatory evacuation, and officials increased the size of the evacuation zone Thursday.

"I thought we could help and do something", Ekler said.

Rescue, recovery and fix personnel are actively working in the area, and the U.S. He and his parents put belongings in three cars in case they made a decision to leave before the storm.

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"It goes without saying how incredibly devastating this time is for their loved ones", Brown said.

The hard-hit community of Montecito, where many homes were destroyed by mudslides, was under new evacuation orders Thursday evening.

"We've gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud", said Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief. It wasn't fully contained until this week. The agency found that a rainfall rate of half an inch per hour would trigger debris flows, officials said.

About 300 people remained stuck in Montecito's Romero Canyon neighborhood as helicopter-rescue crews continued their search, the LA Times reported. They came away shaken after seeing pictures of the flooded Highway 101 and the devastation to downtown Montecito, where they had a veterinary clinic for many years.

Until further notice, visitors can walk the sands but they're urged to stay out of the water because storm and mudslide runoff may have brought raw sewage and chemicals to the sea. "Thank you so much because if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be here", she said.

What can be done?

"Two cars were missing from his driveway and he watched two others slowly move sideways down the middle of the street 'in a river of mud'".

Short term, making the public ready to evacuate during heavy rains is key, he said.

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