13 dead in Calif. as rain triggers mudslides
At least 13 people were killed and homes were torn from their foundations Tuesday as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California last month.
Rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from rooftops because trees and power lines blocked roads, and firefighters pulled a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.
“I thought I was dead for a minute there,” the girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.
Most deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos. At least 25 people were injured, and others were unaccounted for.
The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. Burned-over zones are especially susceptible to destructive mudslides because scorched earth doesn’t absorb water well and the land is easily eroded when there are no shrubs.
The torrent of mud early Tuesday swept away cars and destroyed several homes, reducing them to piles of lumber.
Authorities had been bracing for the possibility of catastrophic flooding because of heavy rain in the forecast for the first time in 10 months.