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Torrential California mudslide takes lives of elderly, young

AP  |  Montecito 

The oldest victim swept away in a mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

"At this moment, we are still looking for live victims," fire Capt. said. But he confessed: "The likelihood is increasing that we'll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that."

The Mitchells were in love with their home in the seaside enclave of Montecito where they moved in 1995, according to their daughter. They also loved their dog, Gigi, who is missing.

The other children killed were 6-year-old Peerawat Sutthithepn, 10-year-old and 12-year-old None of the adult dead shared their last names.

All of the dead were killed by "multiple traumatic injuries due to flood with mudslides," authorities said.

Forty-three people were missing, but many or most of them may simply have been unreachable to the family and friends who reported they couldn't find them, County said.

Some smaller number, which authorities wouldn't give, were actively being investigated as missing people who could be dead under the debris.

Pitney said many rescues were still happening Wednesday and Thursday, but most if not all were of people who were safe but just wanted to get out of the area.

Among the searchers were more than a dozen firefighters who climbed through rubble in the backyard of a mansion that had been torn apart. Some rescuers used poles to probe the muck for bodies, while others waded chest-deep in the mire.

Two black Labrador retrievers swam around a debris-filled swimming pool, trying to pick up any scent.

Crews marked places where bodies were found, often far away from a home, and used that information to guess where other victims might have ended up as the surging mud carried or buried them.

The mudslide, touched off by heavy rain, took many homeowners by surprise early Tuesday, despite warnings issued days in advance that mudslides were possible because recent wildfires had stripped hillsides of vegetation that normally holds soil in place.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 12 2018. 14:45 IST
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