The number of confirmed deaths from flooding and mudslides in California stands at 17, with US authorities stepping up their search for at least 20 missing persons.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said that the rescue teams have worked tirelessly for the missing, adding that 28 people were injured in the disaster in Montecito, north west of Los Angeles, Efe news said.
“While we hope it will not, we expect that this number will increase as we continue to look for people who are still missing and unaccounted for,” the sheriff said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The mudslides struck an area that in December 2017, had already suffered the Thomas wildfire, and was spurred by torrential downpours that dropped nearly 2.54 cm of rain in less than 15 minutes.
Nearly 100 homes were destroyed and 300 others were damaged.
The authorities on Tuesday ordered evacuation and recommended that the residents move to high areas.
The mudslides in some areas reached a height of five feet as more than 500 firefighters were involved in the rescue operations.
A part of Highway 101, was inundated forcing a shut down of a 50-km stretch between Santa Barbara and Ventura, including the part that runs through Montecito, until Thursday night.
The affected area is one of California’s tourist attractions and the price of houses in the area ranges between $1.4 and $4 million.
Some of them are owned by celebrities, including TV hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey.
All of them will be without clean water and electricity “for a long period of time,” the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management announced Wednesday.