Search and rescue efforts intensified Wednesday for hundreds of Montecito residents feared trapped in their homes after deadly walls of mud and debris roared down California hillsides stripped of vegetation by recent ferocious wildfires.
The one-two punch of fire and downpour-fueled debris flows have debilitated the affluent, picturesque community of about 10,000 people. The slides have killed at least 17, destroyed an estimated 100 homes, and sent rescuers scrambling through the rubble searching for dozens who are missing.
“We have no idea where they’re at,” Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said of the missing people. “We think somewhere in the debris field.”
Sheriff Bill Brown said the primary focus of first responders was “to evacuate those who are trapped and need help getting out.” He said residents can shelter in place in their homes — adding that anyone moving about the area faces possible arrest.
The county fire department tweeted a photo of a mud-encased 14-year-old girl being rescued alive from the rubble of a Montecito home. Fire spokesman MIke Eliason said the girl had been trapped for hours.
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