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Rescuers 'searching for a miracle' in California mudslide zone

From Reuters - January 11, 2018

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Reuters) - Rescuers picking through waist-deep mud on Thursday, two days after a massive mudslide killed at least 17 people along Southern Californias coast, said they feared more bodies may be found but still held out hope for miracle survivors.

The walls of fast-moving mud and debris that tore through hillside communities before dawn on Tuesday took the lives of three children, at least one married couple and two people in their 80s, officials said in releasing the names of the dead.

Authorities hiked the number of those considered missing to 43 at an afternoon press conference, up from eight earlier in the day, saying that some of those people may be out of town or in a hospital but that others may be deceased.

Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Asked by reporters if the operation had shifted from a rescue to a recovery more than 48 hours after the mud came down, the sheriff said his crews had not given up hope.

There have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days (following similar disasters) and certainly we are searching for a miracle right now, Brown said.

About 700 rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing in a disaster zone littered with the remnants of hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes.

Among the dead were an elderly woman whose house was washed away by mud, the founder of a Roman Catholic school and a real estate executive, according to friends, family and local news media.

The cause of death for all 17 will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriffs office said in a statement.

The Sheriffs Office wants to express our heartfelt sadness to the family and friends of those who lost their loved ones, it said.

SWEPT AWAY

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