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Rescuers Battle to Find Survivors of California Mudslides

IN PICTURES: Rescue crews have expanded their search for five missing people as the death toll rose to 18 from mudslides in Southern California that damaged hundreds of buildings and caked highways with sludge.

About 1,250 emergency workers raced against the clock to find survivors with drones, heavy equipment and sniffer dogs in the rescue and clean-up efforts, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services said.

The latest victim, 87-year-old Joseph Bleckel, was found in his Montecito home on Friday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, adding that the remaining missing were between the ages of 2 and 30.

"We've got a window that's closing, but we're still very optimistic. There's been plenty of cases where they've found people a week after," Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said earlier on a muddy Montecito street especially hard-hit by the mudslide.

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Santa Barbara County Firefighter Vince Agapito searches through a home destroyed by mudflow and debris in Montecito, California.
Santa Barbara County Firefighter Vince Agapito searches through a home destroyed by mudflow and debris in Montecito, California. Photo:Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire/Handout via REUTERS
Rescue workers enter properties to look for missing people. Officials said secondary searches of damaged structures were underway.
Rescue workers enter properties to look for missing people. Officials said secondary searches of damaged structures were underway. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
A search and rescue dog is guided through properties. The number of missing has fluctuated as people were located, said the Santa Barbara Sheriff
A search and rescue dog is guided through properties. The number of missing has fluctuated as people were located, said the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Authorities said on Thursday night that 43 people were still unaccounted for.
Authorities said on Thursday night that 43 people were still unaccounted for. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Boulders surround a mud-filled property. Residents in some areas were subject to a new mandatory evacuation on Friday, emergency officials said, adding the unstable environment remained a threat.
Boulders surround a mud-filled property. Residents in some areas were subject to a new mandatory evacuation on Friday, emergency officials said, adding the unstable environment remained a threat. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Rescue workers search for missing people. Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slides struck before dawn on Tuesday.
Rescue workers search for missing people. Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slides struck before dawn on Tuesday. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Damage from recent mudslides is shown surrounding San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito. Walls of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides stripped of trees and shrubs by last month
Damage from recent mudslides is shown surrounding San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito. Walls of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides stripped of trees and shrubs by last month's wildfires, including the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze in the state's history. Photo:REUTERS/Alex Dobuzinskis
Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets plowed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 4.6 meters of mud, emergency officials said.
Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets plowed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 4.6 meters of mud, emergency officials said. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
Crews begin clean-up efforts of Highway 101 after mudslides cause extensive damage to hundreds of buildings and caked highways with sludge.
Crews begin clean-up efforts of Highway 101 after mudslides cause extensive damage to hundreds of buildings and caked highways with sludge. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
Firefighter Billy Wren checks a building. "It is heavy. It
Firefighter Billy Wren checks a building. "It is heavy. It's wet. It just exhausts the crews out there," Sacramento Fire Department Captain Pat Costamagna said in a social media video from the governor's emergency management office. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
Firefighters Brandon Bennewate (R) and Billy Wren dig through mud searching for bodies. The cause of death for most of the victims will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff
Firefighters Brandon Bennewate (R) and Billy Wren dig through mud searching for bodies. The cause of death for most of the victims will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries resulting from flash floods with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said Thursday. The dead ranged in age from 3 to 89. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
Los Angeles Search and Rescue officer Jeff Niu and his dog Faith search for bodies along the beach.
Los Angeles Search and Rescue officer Jeff Niu and his dog Faith search for bodies along the beach. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
A mud-filled property. Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities and other wealthy Californians who relish the seclusion and relative proximity to the city.
A mud-filled property. Montecito, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities and other wealthy Californians who relish the seclusion and relative proximity to the city. Photo:REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot
A clean-up crew member works to keep a hose clear on Highway 101 as clean-up efforts begin.
A clean-up crew member works to keep a hose clear on Highway 101 as clean-up efforts begin. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
Los Angeles Search and Rescue dog Veya searches for bodies along the beach. One of California
Los Angeles Search and Rescue dog Veya searches for bodies along the beach. One of California's most celebrated roads, coastal Highway 101, was closed in parts of Santa Barbara County where mud was more than a meter deep in parts. Photo:REUTERS/Daniel Dreifuss
Published 13 January 2018
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