California mudslide toll rises to 20, as search continues

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Rescue teams are continuing to search through the debris to find four people who are still missing

Officials have identified 20 victims following flash floods and mudslides that hit Santa Barbara County in California on Tuesday.

The body of 30-year-old Pinit Sutthithepa was found on Saturday afternoon, local officials said.

Mr Sutthithepa's six-year-old son and 79-year-old father-in-law, Richard Loring Taylor, were found deceased on Tuesday.

His two-year-old daughter, Lydia, is still missing.

The body of 25-year-old Morgan Corey was found on Saturday morning.

An 89-year-old man who had celebrated his birthday the day before is also amongst the dead.

Rescue teams continue to search muddy debris for survivors.

All of those killed died of "multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides", according to the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Office.

It has released a list of the victims who have been identified and recovered so far.

The victims include:

  • Jonathan Benitez - 10 years old
  • Kailly Benitez - 3 years old
  • Joseph Francis Bleckel - 87 years old
  • Martin Cabrera-Munoz - 48 years old
  • David Cantin - 49 years old
  • Morgan Corey - 25 years old
  • Sawyer Corey - 12 years old
  • Peter Fleurat - 73 years old
  • Josephine Gower - 69 years old
  • John McManigal - 61 years old
  • Alice Mitchell - 78 years old
  • James Mitchell - 89 years old
  • Caroline Montgomery - 22 years old
  • Mark Montgomery - 54 years old
  • Marilyn Ramos - 27 years old
  • Rebecca Riskin - 61 years old
  • Roy Rohter - 84 years old
  • Pinit Sutthithepa - 30 years old
  • Peerawat Sutthithepa - 6 years old
  • Richard Loring Taylor - 79 years old

The youngest of the victims who have been located was three-year-old Kailly Benitez, who was one of four children killed as a result of the mudslides.

Four people are still missing, local officials said.

Those still missing are:

  • John "Jack" Cantin, 17
  • Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28
  • Lydia Sutthithepa, 2
  • John "Jack" Keating, 53
Image source, Getty Images

The first rain in months caused mudslides when it hit ground that had been scorched by widespread wildfires in December.

After a wildfire, burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption.

Together with the loss of vegetation, this leads to an increased risk of mudslides and floods.

Five hundred extra emergency rescuers arrived over the weekend, joining more than 2,100 personnel from local and national agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and the American Red Cross.

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A spokesperson for the response team said the relief effort of 3,000 personnel was still in "rescue mode".

"We still hope to find someone alive, although the chances of that are becoming slim," Justin Cooper told Reuters news agency.

Media caption,
Video captures moment the mudslide hit Burbank

More on California mudslides

Residents in the city of Montecito, home about 10,000 people, have been ordered to evacuate their homes.

It is likely that they will be away from their homes for several weeks as the rescue and recovery efforts take place.

Image source, Reuters