Rescuers in California have started making a second pass through areas hit by deadly mudslides earlier this week, searching for survivors in the disaster already known to have killed 17 people.
On Friday, the estimated number of missing people was down to five, after an estimate of 43 on Thursday. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped.
The searchers are using all-terrain vehicles and helicopters, but downed power lines and blocked roads are complicating their efforts.
Tuesday's mudslides in Santa Barbara County were the result of wildfires followed by a heavy storm that sent rivers of debris streaming down steep hillsides. As much as 13 centimeters of rain fell in some places. One piece of video from Tuesday shows a car being carried along a curvy, downward-sloping street, engulfed by mud on all sides.
The 17 victims range in age from 3 to 89, all residents of the scenic coastal community northwest of Los Angeles.
On Thursday, Santa Barbara sheriff Bill Brown said of the missing, "We are certainly searching for a miracle right now."
The mudslide areas are under mandatory evacuation orders for at least a week, but the sheriff has cautioned residents to plan to be away for a full two weeks. Brown apologized for the inconvenience, but he called the area "a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now."
Thomas fire contained
Meanwhile, the Thomas fire that denuded Santa Barbara's hillsides — the largest wildfire in California's recorded history — was finally, on Friday, reported 100 percent contained. The fire started more than a month ago.
The December wildfires burned away hectares of brush and vegetation that normally would have soaked up heavy rainfall in the hills north of Los Angeles.