A California affluent community reels from deadly mudslides
Los Angeles Jan 11 (IANS) The streets of Montecito in Santa Barbara country in California resemble a battlefield choked with mud downed trees snapped utility poles crumpled cars and crushed houses.
People moved wearily on Wednesday through the cement-like slurry picking through the rubble of their homes looking for missing loved ones some just staring into space reports Xinhua news agency.
Nearly 3 400 residents in Montecito are without water or power and over 300 are trapped in their homes as first responders scrambled to conduct rescue work in the wake of the devastating flash floods and deadly mudslides which left at least 15 dead 25 injured and dozens missing said County spokeswoman Yaneris Muniz.
This affluent upscale community near the famed San Ysidro Ranch with its sprawling multimillion dollar homes and lush rolling lawns was previously best known as site of former US President John F. Kennedy s honeymoon with his bride Jackie Bouvier in 1953 and for its current celebrity residents.
Local resident Kristin Denault was jerked awake in the middle of the night when Santa Barbara s emergency bulletin alarm system blared from her cellphone. She told Xinhua: "It was scary. We are all reeling. It s hard to believe tragedy has struck again so soon after the fires."
Well before dawn on Tuesday a thundering juggernaut of unstoppable mud and debris swept down upon the sleeping community from the Santa Ynez Mountains above them crushing everything in its path.
It swept entire homes off their foundations and carried them away in a tumult of mud boulders and debris -- along with the unsuspecting residents.
Residents lucky enough to be spared reported hearing rumblings just before the onslaught that sounded like an earthquake but were actually the sound of a deadly roaring curtain of mud and debris descending upon them powerful enough to propel massive boulders the size of trucks along with it.
A resident said: "It looked like a World War I battlefield."
Ellen Degeneres posted a photo of the flooded 101 highway near her home with the caption: "This is not a river. This is the 101 Freeway in my neighbourhood right now. Montecito needs your love and support."
Rob Lowe added: "Mourning the dead in our little town tonight. Praying for the survivors and preparing for whatever may come."
The hills below which the luxury homes nestled had been stripped of the stabilizing groundcover by the massive brushfires that roared virtually unchecked through the same upscale neighborhood just four weeks ago.
The charred and compromised hillsides could not withstand the relentless pounding rain that turned the rootless soil to slush. They finally eroded into deadly mudslides that struck the community unawares.
But there is some cause for hope.
Nearly 450 first responders and government officials and 14 rescue choppers flooded into the area to help bring order to the chaos.
They coordinated widespread efforts on several fronts to rescue survivors protect the population from downed electrical lines put out raging gas fires from ruptured gas lines and clear debris from roads and funnel evacuees into the Red Cross Evacuation Centre.
The Coast Guard saved a family of five trapped in the debris of their ruined home in Carpenteria by an eight-foot sea of sludge that blocked their escape by land. A mother her newborn baby and other children were pulled out of the collapsing house via the roof and airlifted to safety.
But resident Robert Riskin was not so lucky as he doggedly slogged through the knee-deep sludge and wreckage desperately searching for his missing mother whose home was one of those that had been carried away in the dead of night.