Death Toll Climbs to 15 in Southern California Mudslides

Barbara County Fire Department firefighters respond to mud and debris flow due to heavy rain in Montecito

Death Toll of So Cal Mudslides Increased to 13 Expected to Keep Going Up

Mudslides particularly affected wealthy areas such as Montecito and Santa Barbara, where many celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, have homes.

At a news conference Thursday where he said 43 were missing, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the updated figure was an "inclusive" number that encompassed several definitions of "missing".

Officials did not provide any further information on the girl's condition or if any of her family members had been trapped.

Thirteen people have been killed by mudslides in California but the number is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.

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Helicopters were used to hoist more than 50 people to safety from roofs, where they scrambled to escape the mud or because debris had blocked roads and left them stranded. 17 people have died and hundreds hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged after massive mudslides crashed through Montecito, California early Tuesday morning.

Dozens of homes were destroyed, cars demolished and trees toppled after heavy downpours in communities along California's scenic coastline send mud, boulders and tons of debris rolling down hills.

In Santa Barbara county, thousands called for rescue help between 3 and 6 a.m., right after the rains caused flash flooding in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Winfrey, fresh from sparking rumours of a United States presidential run, said on Instagram she was "praying for our community again in Santa Barbara".

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"This is going to be a long and hard journey for all of us", said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, according to NBC News. Another 20,00 residents received voluntary evacuation warnings.

On Tuesday, Brown told reporters that the scenes "looked like a World War I battlefield". This type of soil can not absorb water as easily, making the region more vulnerable to mudslides during heavy rains-such as the ones that dumped five inches of rain on parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties this week. The fires burned away grass and shrubs that hold the soil in place and also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

She said she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, had to evacuate their home on Sunday, just 10 days after returning from a previous evacuation for wildfires.

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