Rescuers ‘searching for a miracle’


Associated Press

MONTECITO, Calif.

More than two full days after mudslides ravaged the coastal town of Montecito, the search for the missing became an increasingly desperate exercise Thursday, with growing doubts about whether anyone would be found alive. Seventeen people from age 3 to 89 were confirmed dead, and more than 40 others were unaccounted for.

“In disaster circumstances there have been many miraculous stories lasting many days, and we certainly are searching for a miracle right now,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. He noted that some people had been rescued Thursday.

Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said most if not all rescues conducted Wednesday and Thursday were of people who were safe but just wanted to get out of the area.

“These were people that were sheltered in place that had needs that just took a while to get to some of them,” Pitney said. “They were OK, but they wanted to get out.”

The air smelled of sewage and ash as more than a dozen firefighters climbed through rubble in the backyard of a mansion that had been torn apart.

Some rescuers used poles to probe the muck for bodies, while others waded chest-deep in the mire.

Two black Labrador retrievers swam around a debris-filled swimming pool, trying to pick up any scent.

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