California mudslides: Crews dig through debris

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Weeks after fires devastated the area, floodwaters and mudslides have destroyed homes and officials said at least eight people are missing. Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson told reporters some 1,250 emergency workers were at work Friday, slogging through soupy mud and uncertain footing to search for anyone who is trapped.

Authorities have deployed helicopters to reach stranded residents.

With roads blocked, rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from their rooftops.

Among them was a mud-caked 14-year-old girl who was pulled after hours trapped under the rubble of a collapsed home in Montecito. The storms and mud flows have killed at least 15 people and more than 20 people are unaccounted for.

The search amid the mud-covered wreckage of cars and homes is in its third day Friday, and crews want people out of the area in order to bring in more dump trucks and heavy equipment to move more of the boulders and debris.

Tuesday's mudslides in Santa Barbara County were the result of wildfires followed by a heavy storm that sent rivers of debris streaming down steep hillsides.

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"One of the things that I want to talk about is you know, we've had these bad fires all over California and one of the hardest hit areas is where I live in Montecito".

Bill Brown, sheriff of Santa Barbara, said: "The best way I can describe it is, it looked like a World War One battlefield".

Parts of the major north-south highway Route 101 were closed in both directions and not expected to reopen until next week. Over the past month, California's scenic coastline had been ravaged by a series of intense wildfires that burned off vegetation.

The Thomas fire scorched much of the region last month in what was the largest wildfire ever recorded in California.

Winfrey, fresh from sparking rumours of a U.S. presidential run, said on Instagram she was "praying for our community again in Santa Barbara". The fires burned away grass and shrubs that hold the soil in place and also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground. Before, he posted that he was under mandatory evacuation.

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