At least 8 people dead after California mudslides

Mudslides and flash flooding sweep coast as winter storm makes landfall

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Last month's wildfires, the largest in California history, left the area vulnerable to mudslides.

Torrential downpours hit areas in Santa Barbara County earlier this week, triggering devastating mudslides that have killed at least 17 people as of Thursday morning, with at least another 17 officially reported missing. Oprah Winfrey also has a property in Montecito that is reportedly worth almost $90 million.

The sheriff said "at least several dozen homes have been either destroyed or severely damaged, and likely many other ones are in areas that are as-yet inaccessible".

"Six homes near the coastal community of Montecito were wiped away from their foundations by mudflow and debris", CNN quoted Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason as saying.

Five of the bodies were found in Montecito, near Los Angeles, said Captain Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Santa Barbara County officials evacuated almost 7,000 residents from foothill communities Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

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At least 25 people were injured, 50 or more had to be rescued by helicopters, and an undetermined number of others were missing, authorities said.

Search teams in Southern California continue to reach areas buried in mud and debris after Tuesday's deadly rains.

Some 500 responders using search dogs, military helicopters and thermal imaging equipment waded through waist-deep mud among fallen trees and boulders - in the hopes of finding anyone alive.

The upmarket neighbourhood includes homes owned by celebrities like actor Rob Lowe and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Although mandatory evacuations were put into force in some parts of Santa Barbara, only 10% to 15% of residents actually heeded the warnings to flee their homes. Sadly, more than a dozen people have tragically lost their lives.

The debris and mud flows were first reported along with a house fire before 4 a.m. on the 800 block of Park Hill Avenue, according to Ventura CHP.

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