8 people still missing after mudslides kill 17 in S. California

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Eight people are still missing in deadly mudslides that have claimed 17 lives so far in Santa Barbara County in the western U.S. state of California, local authorities said Thursday.

Photo taken on Jan. 10, 2018 shows a house destroyed by boulders and mudflow in Montecito, Santa Barbara, the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

"The correct number of missing is down to eight," Mike Eliason, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told Xinhua in a phone interview.

The correction came after an early Thursday update that raised the missing to 48 in the mudslides triggered by heavy rains just weeks after major wildfires scorched the area.

"The number of confirmed deaths is 17, and the number of injured confirmed is 28. Four of the 28 injured are in critical condition at a local hospital," Eliason said.

A strong winter storm hammered the region on the U.S. West Coast on Monday, bringing heavy downpours and sending mud and debris into residential neighborhoods before dawn on Tuesday.

In Santa Barbara County, a total of 100 homes were destroyed and 300 homes damaged by the mudslides, Eliason said, adding that eight commercial properties were also destroyed and 20 damaged.

"Rescue crews have managed to clear the roadways to free the 300 residence that have been trapped since Tuesday in Romero Canyon," Eliason added.

Rescue efforts are fully mobilized, he said, adding that there are now 683 rescue workers, up from 450 on Wednesday, involved in the disaster relief efforts.

"The weather is very favorable for all continued rescue efforts, and we are all still very hopeful that other trapped people will be found alive by the hardworking crews," he said.

Most of the deaths occurred in and around Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles, as homes were wiped away by mudflows after devastating wildfires left charred hillsides without vegetation cover to hold the deluge.

Some homes and businesses in the area still have no power and water service. The Montecito Water District will continue to distribute emergency water for local residents in need of water on Thursday. 

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