Death toll from California mudslides rises to 19

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This aerial photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department shows mudflow and damage to homes in Montecito, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Anxious family members awaited word on loved ones Wednesday as rescue crews searched grimy debris and ruins for more than a dozen people missing after mudslides in Southern California on Tuesday destroyed over a 100 houses, swept cars to the beach and left more than a dozen victims dead. (Matt Udkow/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES, Jan 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Authorities in southern California raised the death toll from mudslides that battered the region to 19 on Saturday as rescue workers continued the search for victims.

Five people are still missing after the mudslides, according to an update on the County of Santa Barbara’s website, which warned people to “anticipate the numbers of missing persons to fluctuate significantly.”

“Crews continue to search buildings and debris flows for trapped victims. The unstable environment remains a critical threat to civilians and responders,” it said.

“The large amounts of mud and debris are making access and progress challenging.”

Heavy rain on Tuesday, which followed 10 months of drought, sent sticky mud and debris flowing down the hills into Montecito.

In addition to the dead and injured, 65 homes have been destroyed while another 462 sustained damage.

Terrifying wildfires in the area forced evacuations in December, and the mudslides struck just two weeks after people returned.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving perfect conditions for the latest disaster to unfold.

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