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Police hope for 'miracle' to find missing in mudslide

14 January 2018

Rescue crews have expanded their search for five missing people as the death toll rose to 18 from Southern California mudslides that damaged hundreds of buildings and highways.

"We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone", Garrett Speirs, a 54-year-old artist who has been living in Montecito for 20 years, said.

The search for victims of the disaster has carried on in Montecito, where crews are labouring to fix power, water and gas lines as well as clean up massive debris.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office made a plea for information on any of the missing residents, while acknowledging that finding anyone alive would be a "miracle".

"There's been plenty of cases where they've found people a week after", Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said earlier on a muddy Montecito street especially hard-hit by the mudslide.

"But realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this incident".

The evacuation area includes the communities of Summerland and Carpinteria.

Brown urged anyone in mandatory evacuation areas to leave immediately.

Tanker trucks sucked muddy water from flooded sections of USA 101, the only direct major artery between Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara region.

The California Department of Transportation abandoned an estimate of reopening the highway on Monday and said it was not known when the closure would be lifted. Two boat companies that normally take tourists out to Channel Islands National Park and on whale-watching excursions were ferrying people between the Ventura and Santa Barbara harbors.

Santa Barbara County said emergency permits don't require testing of the material for hazards but that public health authorities were testing the ocean waters.

Crews are using backhoes, jackhammers and shovels to look for victims and clear roads.

Orange markings left on doors indicated which homes had already been searched.

"My sister was such a good person, she only thought of others to the point that she would cry with you when you were hurt or sick", said Ramos' sister, Jennifer Ramos.

The US Forest Service announced on Friday that the fire that burned 440 square miles had been fully contained.

It erupted December 4 in Ventura County and destroyed more than 1,000 structures as it swept through the city of Ventura and then threatened Carpinteria, Summerland and Santa Barbara.

Police hope for 'miracle' to find missing in mudslide