California mudslides: Crews dig through debris

Oprah Winfrey's home damaged by deadly California mudslides

California mudslides: At least 13 killed, thousands evacuated

Twenty had "storm-related injuries" and four were critically hurt.

Emergency officials set up a Family Assistance Center at the First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance Ave.in Santa Barbara.

Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slide struck before dawn on Tuesday, when a wall of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides that were denuded last month by wildfires, including the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze in the state's history.

Emergency services said a number of people were unaccounted for and they expected the number of deaths to rise. More than 1,560 personnel were assigned to the search-and-rescue and cleanup efforts in an incident area that spanned 30 square miles. Local rescue crews, using borrowed helicopters from the US Coast Guard, worked to airlift them out, officials said.

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Oprah Winfrey's property in Santa Barbara, Calif., is one of the many homes damaged by deadly mudslides and flash floods in the area. Erik Ortiz reported from NY. Dozens more people were rescued on the ground, including a mud-caked 14-year-old girl who was pulled from a collapsed home in Montecito where she had been trapped for hours. "I was frozen yesterday morning thinking, 'This is a million times worse than that fire ever was'".

Similar issues emerged in last year's wine country wildfires in Northern California, where at times thousands were reported missing, the overwhelming majority simply people whose communication with friends and family had been cut off by the fires.

The area, northwest of Los Angeles, is home to many celebrities and other wealthy Californians who relish the seclusion and relative proximity to the city.

But when a relative went to the sheriff's office for information, she said, "they told her there was no 319 Hot Springs Road anymore".

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Elsewhere, cars carried away by the flow were perched on mounds of earth and mangled garage doors crushed by the mud rested at odd angles.

Homeowners in the area shared photos of mud in their homes. Caltrans announced that Highway 101, which is still a muddy river, will remain closed until midday Monday.

Wildfires in December, including the Thomas Fire, swept through the area burning vegetation that helps prevent flooding and landslides.

The wooded hillsides that once gave the residential estates a sense of seclusion were largely denuded by last year's historic wildfires, setting the stage for the massive slides that slammed into homes, turned highways into raging rivers and shredded cars into almost unrecognisable tangles of metal after heavy rains.

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