Death toll climbs to 18 in massive Montecito mudslide


The founder of a Roman Catholic school and four children were among the victims of a deadly series of mudslides in Santa Barbara County, California, that killed 17 people along the coast, officials said on Thursday.

"A majority of Montecito and that whole area is in the Stone Age right now", said Mike Eliason, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 17 people remained missing.

Roy Rohter, 84, founder of the Saint Augustine Academy, a private Catholic school in Ventura, was killed on Tuesday when a mudslide swept him from his Montecito home, according to school officials.

The deadly mudslides also affected the hometown of models Bella and Gigi Hadid, who said in separate posts on Twitter and Instagram they "really can't believe it" and to "keep the families of Santa Barbara in your thoughts and prayers".

The vicious mudflows that raced through the Southern California town of Montecito early Tuesday were swift and ruthless.

A resident said: "It looked like a World War I battlefield".

But resident Robert Riskin was not so lucky as he doggedly slogged through the knee-deep sludge and wreckage, desperately searching for his missing mother, whose home was one of those that had been carried away in the dead of night.

Now, three days in to a mandatory evacuation order they made a decision to ignore, the Shaws said they're determined to ride out what could be a multi-week closure. Theresa was rescued and hospitalized in stable condition.

Cradduck has lived in his home for 34 years and said he's never seen anything like this.

Camp said water service throughout the district continues to be limited. "Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters' friendship and generosity".

The statement says Riskin was an "exceptional woman" who had exuded strength, grace and elegance.

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Riskin is survived by her two children, Robert and Julia, and her husband, Ken Grand, the company said.

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

These before and after images show the extent of the damage in Montecito.

A backhoe scooped up mud and rocks around buckled and flattened homes, while bulldozers cleared roads of tangled trees, muck and boulders.

Almost 450 first responders and government officials and 14 rescue choppers flooded into the area to help bring order to the chaos.

Jeff Gater, the county's emergency manager, said that more than 200,000 text messages, emails and other warnings were sent out to people who subscribed to such messages but that officials decided not to use the cellphone push alert system out of concern it might not be taken seriously.

One of the victims who lost their lives in the disaster was David Cantin, the father of 14-year-old Lauren Cantin who was rescued after a six-hour effort by first responders on Tuesday.

Those who did not lose their homes have been told to leave for up to two weeks so they will not interfere with the rescue and recovery operation.

U.S. Highway 101 at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito.

Hundreds of searchers are still hunting for survivors of the flash flooding and mudslides near Santa Barbara, California.

As the search and rescue efforts continued, stories of grim loss have begun to emerge.