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Southern California mudslides, flooding leave at least 13 dead

Southern California mudslides, flooding leave at least 13 dead

About 5.5 inches of rain had fallen in parts of Ventura County over two days in southern California

At least 13 people have been died after a powerful winter storm drenching Southern California sent mud, rocks and debris plummeting down wildfire-scarred hillsides and into several neighbourhoods, some of which house lavish celebrity homes.

According to local media in just a matter of minutes, pounding rain overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above Montecito and flooded a creek that leads to the ocean, sending mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighbourhoods.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown at a news conference said at least 25 other people were injured and crews rescued 50 people by air and dozens more from the ground and the affected areas of the state “looked like a World War I battlefield.

Rescues have unfolded throughout the day in Montecito, an enclave that includes the mansions of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and several other celebrities.

More deaths are expected in Montecito, Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos said. Some 25 people were injured and others remain unaccounted for.

According to the fire department, at least three homes have been destroyed by a mud and debris slide in the area of Hot Springs Road and residents were unaccounted for in neighbourhoods below hillsides scarred by recent fire.

Officials had no estimate on how many people could be trapped or how many homes were damaged. The search for survivors was still underway Tuesday afternoon, with many places inaccessible.

In Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, firefighters pulled a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed home where she had been trapped for hours.

Emergency crews spent the first hours of light making rescues in voluntary evacuation zones near Montecito Creek north of U.S. The U.S. Coast Guard also sent rescue helicopters into the area Tuesday morning, hoisting several people from collapsed homes or rooftops that stood above swirling mud and water.

The experts said the region has suffered from years of drought, and officials say they need the rain to regrow plants and trees that help keep the hillsides together and flood proof.

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