California search crews look for bodies in the ooze

A California Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter with air crews and two elite Guardian Angel pararescuemen from the 129th Rescue Wing Moffett Air National Guard Base, California, provide search and rescue operations in Southern California, impacted by a mud slides, Jan. 10, 2018. COURTESY PHOTO BY STAFF SGT. CRISTIAN MEYERS

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of rescue workers slogged through knee-deep ooze and used long poles to probe for bodies Thursday as the search dragged on for victims of the mudslides that slammed this wealthy coastal town. Seventeen people were confirmed dead and eight others were missing.

Family members anxiously awaited word on loved ones who hadn’t been heard from since the onslaught early Tuesday.

“It’s just waiting and not knowing, and the more I haven’t heard from them — we have to find them,” said Kelly Weimer, whose elderly parents’ home was wrecked. The couple, Jim and Alice Mitchell, did not heed a voluntary evacuation warning and stayed home to celebrate Jim Mitchell’s 89th birthday.

Santa Barbara County authorities sent a shudder through the community early Thursday when they reported that the number of people unaccounted for had surged from 16 to 48. But later in the morning, they said they had made a clerical error, and the actual number of missing was down to eight.

As search dogs clambered on heaps of wood that used to be homes, mud-spattered rescue teams from all over California worked their way through the ruins of Montecito, an enclave of 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.

San Marcos Daily Record

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