California mudslides death toll hits 17, over dozens missing

Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Search and Rescue crew work on a car trapped under debris in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Dozens of homes were swept away or heavily damaged and several people were killed Tuesday as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California last month. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES: The founder of a Catholic school is among the 17 people killed in deadly mudslides and flooding in Southern California. Hundreds of rescuers and dogs continued searching for people Wednesday, slogging through mud and debris.

Roy Rohter, 84, and his wife, Theresa, were swept from their Montecito home, the headmaster said. Theresa was rescued, said Michael Van Hecke, headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, which Rohter founded in 1994.

Authorities have not confirmed the names of the dead. Children are among the victims, said Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason.

Heavy rains early Tuesday caused rivers of mud and debris to run down from hillsides in Santa Barbara County, demolishing homes in the affluent seaside community of Montecito weeks after wildfires in the area. Many people are on edge, awaiting news about missing loved ones.


Deadly storm: The 17 deaths were reported in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.

More missing: Officials said 17 people were unaccounted for.

Rescue operation: More than 500 first responders and 10 dogs continued to search for people in Santa Barbara County.

Trapped residents evacuated: First responders used a helicopter to rescue some of 300 residents trapped by debris blocking their way out of Montecito’s Romero Canyon area, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. Some residents wanted to stay in their homes, Brown said.

Hundreds of calls: As the storm hit hard between 3 and 6 a.m. Tuesday, sheriff’s office dispatchers handled more than 600 phone calls for assistance, Brown said.

Rescues: Dozens of people have been rescued in Santa Barbara County, officials said. The US Coast Guard said it used helicopters Tuesday to collect people from rooftops, including a couple and their three children in Carpinteria.

Injured: Twenty-eight people were hurt in Santa Barbara County, officials said.

Destruction: Floodwaters and mudslides destroyed 100 homes and damaged another 300 residences in Santa Barbara County.

Road closed: US 101 in parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara will remain closed for at least 48 hours because of the muddy debris covering it, authorities said Tuesday.