A residential neighborhood in Montecito, California, as seen on Wednesday.
Matt Udkow / AP
A 3-year-old girl and several other children are among the 17 dead after flooding and mudslides swept through Southern California on Tuesday, destroying homes and burying roads in the process.
Kailly Benitez, 3, was the youngest victim, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday. Three other children were killed in the mudslides: Peerawat Sutthithepn, 6, Jonathan Benitez, 10, and Sawyer Corey, 12. The oldest person killed was James Mitchell, 89.
The cause of death for all of the victims was listed as “multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.” They were all Montecito residents.
The destructive flooding and mudslides began before dawn Tuesday when the first significant storm of the season dumped several inches of rain across the wildfire-scarred hills of Southern California, including in Santa Barbara County where the state’s largest recorded wildfire raged less than a month ago. As the rain came down, hillsides previously covered in vegetation gave way, releasing powerful flows of mud, loose branches, rocks and other debris into neighborhoods.
Officials were still searching debris-strewn neighborhoods for survivors Wednesday, and they were bracing for the number of casualties to rise, Santa Barbara Sherif Bill Brown said at a news conference.
“Realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this indecent,” he added.
A total of 43 people were considered missing Thursday. That number includes individuals for whom there are “active missing person case files,” Brown explained, as well as names that have merely been reported as unaccounted for. The number also represents a significant increase from Thursday morning, when only eight people were considered missing, and Brown explained the list fluctuates as names are reported and people are located.
The slides destroyed about 100 homes and damaged 300 others, officials said Wednesday.
About 700 first responders were on the scene Thursday, including members of the California National Guard. Hundreds of people also reportedly lacked electricity, and outages were expected to continue through the rest of the week.
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